Learning how to choose the right HVAC filter for your home is crucial. And selecting the incorrect filter when carrying out your scheduled filter change could be costly.
Choosing the right HVAC filter for your home HVAC system can be daunting. There are various types of HVAC filters on the market which complicates things. Whether you have allergies or pets and babies in the house will influence your decision. Then you must consider the climate, MERV rating, filter size, and whether you require a reusable or disposable filter.
Replacing the HVAC filter in your HVAC system every couple of months helps prevent your unit from malfunctioning. It also reduces energy consumption and improves the air quality inside the house. In addition, it is advisable to replace the HVAC filter as the seasons change through the year.
If you’re up to date with your HVAC system maintenance, that should be sufficient to prolong the shelf life of the filters. In addition, with regular maintenance, most of the dust and dirt trapped in the vents will get cleaned off.
Keep on reading to find out everything you need to know regarding how to choose the right HVAC filter for your home.
Types of HVAC Filters
Before teaching you how to choose the right HVAC filter for your home, let’s clarify a few things. First, replacing the HVAC filters in your HVAC system ranks as one of the most tedious tasks to perform at home. There are no power tools involved and no visual impact after finishing the job.
As a result, there’s none of the sense of accomplishment you get after finishing a significant home improvement. However, it is one of the most vital tasks you’ll need to perform to maintain the air quality in your home.
But, as we know, even the smallest of things can have a significant impact. And that is very much the case with HVAC filters.
Finding the right one will help you save a ton of money. But, it will have to turn your home into an energy-efficient machine and improve the air quality inside. When learning how to choose the right HVAC filter for your home, you’ll discover many good options on the market, each with its pros and cons.
In the beginning, HVAC filters were designed to protect the moving pieces of your HVAC system. However, as technology moved forward and new inventions hit the market, filters became way more efficient.
And they now prevent dangerous allergens from contaminating the air inside your home. Let’s look at some of the different types of filters available and the features and benefits associated with each.
Filters may not be the most expensive components in your HVAC system. But some may consider the high-end HVAC filters with a MERV rating of 16 or more expensive. Suppose you wonder how to choose the right HVAC filter for your home. In that case, disposable fiberglass HVAC filters are an affordable option.
Disposable fiberglass HVAC filters are made from spun fiberglass. And they usually carry a MERV rating of around three and cost less than $5 each.
Though cheap, they aren’t suited for households with occupants who have allergy problems or asthma. In addition, these filters have little to no impact on improving the air quality inside your home.
However, if maintaining the HVAC system is your primary concern, these may be a good option. And when it comes to keeping particles, dirt, and dust out of the home, they’ll do the job.
Therefore, if you’re wondering how to choose the right HVAC filter for your home, disposable fiberglass filters may be an option.
Disposable pleated HVAC filters are usually made with cotton or polyester. And they’re very effective in trapping even the smallest particles such as mites or spores. They are also better at keeping the indoor air quality high.
This type of HVAC filter requires you to change them every couple of months to prevent clogging and straining your HVAC system. However, their MERV rating goes up to 6, and they don’t cost much more than the fiberglass HVAC filters.
One of the best things about disposable pleated HVAC filters is that they are made using eco-friendly materials. Remember, the better the filter, the more complex the HVAC system has to work to pump the air through. Therefore, a more effective filter could mean more strain on the system and greater electricity use.
High-efficiency pleated HVAC filters were among the first types of HVAC filters to hit the market. They are made of pleated synthetic cotton attached to a metal grid, which prevents leaks. They typically have a MERV rating of 16 and cost more than $100 per filter.
These models are incredibly thick and were designed to be used in massive HVAC systems. Instead, they are usually meant to be used in hospitals or clinics. Therefore, using one of these will place a significant amount of strain on your home system.
And it could cause your HVAC system to overheat and break down. Therefore, using the high-efficiency pleated HVAC filter in your home HVAC system is not good.
Continuing with our guide on how to choose the right HVAC filter for your home, let’s talk about disposable electrostatic HVAC filters. They usually have a MERV rating of 10 and are made with self-charging electrostatic cotton or paper.
These are hardworking and hard wearing HVAC filters. They are affordable and usually found in the standard home HVAC filter sizes.
But if you can’t find it in your size, you can always have one custom-made, but it’ll be more expensive. Disposable electrostatic HVAC filters are ideal for households with smokers, pets, and young children.
Reusable electrostatic HVAC filters are similar to disposable electrostatic HVAC filters. They are made with the same materials and comprise self-charging cotton or paper that traps all the allergens.
However, some brands that make disposable electrostatic HVAC filters also make reusable models. These are HVAC filters you can take out, wash with soap and water, and replace.
The reusable variety usually lasts from 6 to 8 years and typically has a MERV rating of 8. Since they are reusable, they have little impact on the environment and are far more cost-effective than other HVAC filters.
If your HVAC system uses a standard size filter, the reusable electrostatic might be the way to go.
The reusable polyester HVAC filter is another good choice when examining how to choose the right HVAC filter for your home. They are thicker than fiberglass filters, so they trap more particles.
Their thickness varies from 1 to 4 inches, and they have two subtypes, namely flat or pleated.
Their MERV rating is 8, which means they filter up to 91% of all common airborne particles. You’ll still need to take it out and wash the filter a few times a year.
And as is the case with any HVAC filter/system combination, you must still carry out regular maintenance to the system.
You could also opt for a reusable HVAC filter constructed using specialized nanofiber filtering technology. This type of filter is exclusive to Filti and aims to provide you with the best possible air quality in your home.
This unique reusable nanofiber HVAC filter will also outlast the average disposable filter by years, saving you money.
These Filti HVAC filters carry an impressive MERV rating of 13 and comprise three layers which enhance their dust collecting abilities. In addition, they’re effortless to clean and come with a plant-based, eco-friendly cleaner for the best possible performance.
High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA)
The high-efficiency particulate air HVAC filter, or HEPA, became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. They can filter up to 99.7 of all common airborne particles.
However, they are hard to come by because most models were manufactured to fit large HVAC systems. They carry a MERV rating of between 16 to 20. And they’re primarily used in hospitals or locations where optimal air quality is necessary.
How To Choose The Right HVAC Filter For Your Home
When determining how to choose the right HVAC filter for your home, there are vital factors you must consider. To buy the right HVAC filter for your unit, you should first check the manufacturer’s instructions. Just because an HVAC filter has a high MERV rating doesn’t mean it’ll be a good fit for your system.
Here we’ll break down the factors you should consider when choosing the right HVAC filter.
HVAC Filter Size
HVAC filters are available in multiple sizes and thicknesses. The thicker the filter, the more effective it will be at trapping allergen particles.
But before heading to the store, check the user manual for your unit’s filter indications. If you do not have the manual and never replaced the filter, take it out, and use it as a reference.
Although thicker filters are more effective, it doesn’t mean they will work on your unit. In addition, the thicker the filter is, the more complex the fan has to work to regulate the temperature inside the house.
Reusable or Disposable HVAC Filters
When learning how to choose the right HVAC for your home, you must know the difference between a reusable and a disposable filter.
Changing your HVAC filters every three months will ensure your unit works properly and keeps dust particles from reaching the coils and the fan.
Disposable filters are usually made with lightweight, eco-friendly materials and are cheap. Therefore, you can throw them away after replacing them with a new one.
Reusable filters come in an aluminum frame with electrostatic fibers to trap all the common airborne particles. But you can wash and reuse them.
However, you must follow a particular procedure when washing reusable filters, so be sure not to throw away the instructions.
It’s also paramount that the filter is fully dry before reinstalling it into the unit after washing. If the filter is still moist when you replace it, you run the risk of mold growing on the filter.
Once you know the procedure, reusable HVAC filters are easy to clean. And depending on the manufacturer, reusable HVAC filters can last a few years. Therefore, you may be tempted to opt for reusable filters when choosing the right HVAC filter for your home.
Each HVAC filter comes with a MERV, or minimum efficiency reporting value, rating. These ratings are determined by the thickness of the filter and its capacity to filter particles.
Therefore, the higher the number, the more efficient the filter is. And the ratings range from 1, the lowest efficiency level, to 20, the highest. For example, HVAC filters used in residential and commercial HVAC systems usually have a MERV rating between 10 and 12.
However, thicker filters can trap more particles. They also need to be replaced more frequently.
Therefore, the ideal MERV rating for residential HVAC filters is between 6 and 16. Any HVAC filter in that range won’t cause a strain on your HVAC system. Of course, you should always check the manufacturer’s recommendation regarding MERV ratings.
Another factor influencing how to choose the right HVAC filter for your home is the weather conditions where you live. For example, perhaps you live in a humid area where mold growth is a serious concern.
You may want to use an HVAC filter with a MERV rating of at least six or higher. This way, you reduce the risk of mold spores building up in the filter.
Which, in turn, prevents them from circulating through the air into your home. Where the climate tends to become intensely humid, it’s best to replace the HVAC filter every 2 to 3 weeks.
HVAC Filter Pros and Cons
When choosing the right HVAC filter for your home, you should know the pros and cons of HVAC filters.
Pros of HVAC Filters
- Replacing the HVAC filters in an HVAC system is a simple task for any homeowner to perform independently. You have to take the old filter out and replace it with the new one if you are using a disposable model.
- If you are using a reusable one, take it out, wash it with soap and water, wait for it to dry, and slide it back in.
- There’s a wide variety of HVAC filters to choose from. They come in different sizes and thicknesses. Some are made from fiberglass, others are pleated, and others use electrostatic fabric to trap the airborne particles.
- Most HVAC systems use a standard-sized HVAC filter. Therefore, finding the correct HVAC filter size for your system shouldn’t be difficult.
Cons of HVAC Filters
- Some HVAC filters can be a little expensive. And some of the thicker, more expensive models need to be replaced or cleaned more often.
- You may find yourself in a situation where there isn’t a cheaper HVAC filter available for your particular HVAC system. To save on costs, you may have to re-do the vent ducts around the house in the long run.
HVAC Filter Terminology You Need to Know
When learning how to choose the right HVAC filter for your home, you should familiarize yourself with the HVAC filter terminology. This will help you make an informed decision when selecting your next filter.
MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It’s a rating system developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
The higher the MERV rating, the thicker the HVAC filter, and the better it is at trapping dangerous airborne contaminants.
HEPA, or High-Efficiency Particulate Air, is another HVAC filter term you should know. Fitting an HVAC unit with one of these filters will significantly increase the air quality inside your home.
However, not every residential HVAC system can handle the thickness of HEPA filters. They are ideal HVAC filters for households with people living with asthma.
MPR and FPR
Microparticle Performance Rating and Filter Performance Rating are terms coined by 3M and Home Depot. They created their rating system to determine the efficiency of HVAC filters.
The MPR indicates how effectively an HVAC filter captures particles less than 1 micron in size. On the other hand, the FPR uses a system that includes both numbers and colors as indicators of efficacy.
Understanding how to choose the right HVAC filter for your home can be a complex understanding at the onset. But once you understand the factors that influence your decision, it becomes easier to execute, knowing the different kinds of filters available to you and the different rating systems for HVAC filters.
Once you’ve discovered which filter is the right HVAC filter for your home, the only thing left to do is install it. After that, you need to check your filter regularly and change or clean it when needed.
If you’d like to know more about how often your HVAC filters should be changed, take a look at our detailed guide.
What is the best MERV rating for HVAC filters?
While MERV ratings go as high as 20, it doesn’t mean you should opt for the highest one. Those are typically used in hospitals and research facilities. Be sure to check what your manufacturer recommends regarding MERV ratings for your unit.
Do higher MERV ratings decrease airflow?
Two things determine the MERV rating. They are the thickness of the HVAC filter and its ability to block natural allergens from circulating through the air. Installing a thicker HVAC filter than recommended will significantly decrease airflow. Air filters thicker than recommended will result in your unit working harder than usual to regulate the temperature.
Is a thicker furnace filter better than a thinner one?
Not necessarily. Perhaps your HVAC system isn’t designed to handle thicker HVAC filters. In that case, your unit will draw more energy for the fan to work harder to regulate the house’s temperature.
What is the best type of HVAC filter for keeping viruses at bay?
HEPA HVAC filters with MERV ratings above 16 are designed to trap viruses and bacteria. Therefore, they prevent them from circulating through the air in your home. Unfortunately, residential HVAC units are not designed to handle these filters.
How often should you change your HVAC filter?
Most HVAC filters need to be changed every 2 to 3 months. However, there are some factors you need to consider. Be sure to ask a professional what they recommend in your particular case.
Where is the HVAC filter located in my HVAC unit?
The HVAC filters in a return vent HVAC system are usually located behind the vent latch in a wall or ceiling. Therefore, they are usually easy to spot. If you’re unsure, look for the grill opening that is drawing air.
How does a clogged HVAC filter affect my HVAC system?
You will be exposed to various hazards if you do not replace the HVAC filter as frequently. A clogged HVAC filter will significantly reduce your HVAC system’s capacity to regulate the temperature. And will result in it consuming more energy than it should.
How is an HVAC filter related to the comfort of my home?
One thing we crave the most during the hot summer months is to get home quickly and set the temperature as low as possible. Lowering internal temperatures in our space helps us cool off and forget the burning hot sun outside. However, a dirty HVAC filter will prevent your system from accomplishing this.
How can I choose the right HVAC system for my home?
It’s always best to ask the HVAC system manufacturer or service provider what they recommend. Perhaps you have children, pets, or suffer from allergies or asthma. You will have to look for special filters that help with those conditions in this instance.
Are reusable filters better than disposable ones?
Both filters work just fine. The market is flooded with multiple brands selling different types of HVAC filters. You’ll find disposable HVAC filters with higher MERV ratings than reusable ones and vice-versa. The most important thing is that you run the proper maintenance on your HVAC system at the recommended intervals. And that you replace the HVAC filter when required.