Mastering Air Filter Selection: A Homeowner’s Essential Guide

If you think that all air filters are the same, think again! There are things every homeowner should know about filters that can help you make the best decision for your HVAC system.

Air filters capture dust and other particles in the air. This allows your system to function better while giving you better indoor air quality.

Buying the right type of air filter matters, and here’s what to know to make the best choice for your home.

Understanding How Air Filters Work

Understanding How Air Filters Work

First, it’s important to understand the role of air filters in your HVAC system. These filters are responsible for trapping particles and removing them from the air.

Depending on the type of filter, it can remove bacteria, viruses, dirt, dust mites, pet dander, lint, mold spores, airborne particles from household products, pollen, and smoke.

When the HVAC system pulls the air in, it forces it through the air filter. Your air filter then captures these particles, keeping them from recirculating through your home.

Choosing Air Filters for Size, Shape, and Material

Choosing Air Filters for Size, Shape, and Material-Air Filter Selection
Source: E Dennis

Perhaps one of the most important steps before choosing new air filters for your HVAC system is to make sure you’ve got the correct size. You may need an 18x24x1, 16x25x3, or 20x25x6 air filter, or another size. If you’ve just bought your home and aren’t sure what size filter you need, you can pull out the current filter and check.

You’ll want to consider the materials as the density and volume all impact how it will perform. Cheap filters use fiberglass and resemble a honeycomb. The best filters are pleated. This gives them a larger surface area that can trap more particles.

Additionally, the minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating of the filter is an important consideration. These numbers indicate how well the filter will be able to capture the particles in the air.

Most air filters designed for household use will have a MERV rating from 1 to 16. The lower the number, the less effective it is. However, choosing one that is too high for your system may impede the airflow and cause a problem.

More About MERV Ratings

More About MERV Ratings-Air Filter Selection
Source: Dennis

While you should consult your HVAC company about what efficiency rating your air conditioning system can use, you should have a better understanding about MERV ratings. Filters with MERV ratings between 1 and 4 are basic filters. They will filtrate the air, removing less than 20% of contaminants from the air.

Filters with a rating between 5 and 8 are a better option. Filters with a rating in this range can remove up to 35% of particles but filters with a MERV rating between 9 and 12 offer up to 75% removal of contaminants. You can also choose MERV ratings from 13 to 16, but they are very dense, which means they may restrict airflow on units that can’t handle them.

A good rule of thumb is to choose something in the mid-range category to get proper filtration for your home.


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