Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters are different in quality and dimensions, and some have features that others don't. In most cases we advise using the filter your HVAC manufacturer says to pair with your equipment.

All filters have MERV ratings, which go from 1–20. MERV means minimum efficiency reporting value.

A larger rating indicates the filter can catch smaller particulates. This sounds good, but a filter that traps finer substances can become obstructed more quickly, increasing pressure on your equipment. If your unit isn’t created to function with this kind of filter, it may decrease airflow and cause other problems.

Unless you live in a medical center, you more than likely don’t require a MERV rating higher than 13. In fact, most residential HVAC units are specifically made to operate with a filter with a MERV ranking lower than 13. Sometimes you will find that good systems have been made to work with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should get most of the common triggers, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to catch mold spores, but we suggest having a professional remove mold rather than trying to hide the trouble with a filter.

Often the packaging indicates how frequently your filter should be changed. From what we know, the accordion-style filters last longer, and are worth the additional cost.

Filters are made from varying materials, with disposable fiberglass filters being most typical. Polyester and pleated filters trap more debris but may reduce your system’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you may be interested in using a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like adding a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling equipment. It’s very unrealistic your system was made to run with kind of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality. This equipment works along with your HVAC system.

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