Types of HVAC Filters and Why They Matter

Types of HVAC Filters and Why They Matter
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    One of the most important maintenance tasks you'll ever perform for your home is keeping your HVAC filter clean.


Not only does this contribute to a longer working life for the unit, but it makes sure that your home’s air is free of dust and pollen. It may surprise you to learn that different types of filter will have notable effects on your system.

Here’s everything you ever needed to know about HVAC filters and their differences.

What types of HVAC filters are available?

There’s many different filter materials used, but the most common are fiberglass, polyester, and high-end HEPA filters.

Unless you specifically bought a system using the HEPA designation, there’s a good chance your current HVAC filter is a fiberglass one. It’s the cheapest to manufacture, so has become the default.

However, polyester filters are generally better at filtration, meaning they’re a better choice for dusty areas or homes with people who suffer from asthma or allergies.

These filters typically have higher MERV values, and they’re more expensive to produce than fiberglass.

HEPA filters are specially designed to be ultra-efficient at filtration, making them the go-to recommendation for homes with allergy and asthma sufferers. They can filter particles down to 0.3 microns, but this advanced filtration comes at a cost to airflow. With less ease-of-airflow through the filter, this can put a strain on your system.

It’s best not to use them with older systems or budget systems that move less air. If possible, plan to install a HEPA-compliant HVAC system from the start if they appeal to you.

Are all filters disposable?

Most HVAC filters are disposable, and you will simply switch them out on a regular schedule. If you’re an eco-conscious household, there are non-disposable filters available that will simply be cleaned off and re-installed.

They’re typically at the efficiency level of a fiberglass filter, and may not be the best choice for those who suffer from allergies.

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What is a MERV rating?

Before asking yourself, “Which air filters should I choose?” it’s important to understand what a MERV rating actually is. Short for ‘minimum efficiency reporting value,’ it’s a measure of how efficiently a filter removes particles from the air.

It’s rated on a scale of 1-20, and the higher the rating, the more efficiently the filter removes dander, pollen, dust, and pollution from the air.


Filter design will also affect the MERV rating. Typically, pleated filters will catch more debris than non-pleated. You may not always have a choice here, as each HVAC system will need a specific fit and design of filter. However, if you can opt for pleated, it’s a good idea.

For most normal homes, a MERV rating of 8-12 is sufficient, and a higher rating may not be worth the expense or the strain in airflow on the system. If you have asthma or allergies to confront, however, you may want to look a little higher.

other related articles of interest:

Choosing the right type of HVAC filter for your system and your household’s needs is a critical part of home maintenance, so get familiar with yours today.

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