Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters differ in quality and dimensions, and some have specifications that others don't. In most situations we recommend installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer suggests pairing with your equipment.

All filters are assigned MERV ratings, which range from 1–20. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A larger rating indicates the filter can trap more miniscule particulates. This sounds good, but a filter that stops finer dirt can become blocked faster, raising pressure on your system. If your system isn’t created to function with this model of filter, it can restrict airflow and create other issues.

Unless you are in a hospital, you more than likely don’t require a MERV ranking greater than 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC systems are specifically designed to run with a filter with a MERV level lower than 13. Frequently you will learn that decent systems have been designed to operate with a MERV ranking of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV ranking of 5 should trap many common nuisances, like pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to catch mold spores, but we advise having a professional eliminate mold instead of trying to hide the problem with a filter.

Often the packaging demonstrates how often your filter should be changed. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters hold up better, and are worth the extra cost.

Filters are created from different materials, with disposable fiberglass filters being the most common. Polyester and pleated filters catch more debris but may limit your system’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you could be interested in using a HEPA filter, remember that's like adding a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling system. It’s highly unrealistic your system was made to work with level of resistance. If you’re concerned about indoor air quality. This product works in tandem with your HVAC system.

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