The Ultimate Guide to Air Conditioner Filters: What You Need to Know

Are you wondering if there is really a difference between air conditioner filters? The answer is yes! HVAC air filters vary in quality, dimensions, and features. In most cases, it is best to use the filter that your HVAC manufacturer recommends for your system. All filters are assigned MERV ratings, ranging from 1 to 20. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value.

At its core, an air filter's purpose is to remove impurities such as dust, pet dander, and even bacteria from the air that flows through the system. Not only does this improve the air quality inside your home, but it also protects your HVAC system from potential damage. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the concentration of air pollutants inside your home can be two to five times higher than concentrations normally found outdoors. When evaluating an air filter, we measure how well it removes dust, pollen, and smoke from the air, and how freely air flows through the filter at any fan speed.

We also estimate annual costs for replacement filters based on manufacturer recommendations for when to change them. Keep in mind that prices may vary by retailer and that it may be cheaper if you buy filters in bulk. The thicker the air filter, the longer it will last. A 1-inch filter will clog with particulate matter much faster than a 4- or 5-inch filter.

When looking at the packaging, check the manufacturer's recommended replacement dates. This will give you a good idea of the value of a thicker air filter. Or, thanks to today's smart home technology, you can even purchase smart filters such as 3M Filtrete smart air filters that use sensors to monitor airflow. Some HVAC systems are not strong enough to push air through more restrictive filters that block smaller particles, that is, those with a higher MERV or CADR rating.

This can reduce airflow and cause your home to heat and cool less efficiently. Proper maintenance of air filters is crucial not only to providing clean air in your home but also to keeping your HVAC system working properly. Some people need HVAC system filters that keep the air free of allergens and other contaminants, while others just need a basic filter to get the job done. We have the best options for portable air conditioners if a window unit or central air doesn't work for you.

Compared to cheaper basic filters available, medium-efficiency MERV filters such as the Nordic Pure MERV 12 can greatly reduce airborne dust, mold spores, pollen and even smoke. This can help alleviate respiratory ailments according to an NIH review. Air filters are an important factor in keeping your home clean and keeping the air you breathe healthy. All of them (and Owen) told us that MERV filters in this range restrict airflow more than low-MERV filters as measured by the drop in air pressure that filters create when installed. Not only can air filtration in the home be a matter of life and death for those suffering from a multitude of respiratory conditions, but even those who consider themselves normal and healthy can benefit from cleaner, dust-free and allergen-free air. Understanding the different types of home air filters is the first step to getting the best indoor air quality you deserve.

The cheapest disposable fiberglass filters only meet the minimum (or slightly better), around MERV 2 or 3, and are designed to protect the inner workings of your HVAC system rather than indoor air quality.

Delia Franklin
Delia Franklin

Tv lover. General burrito scholar. Freelance internet junkie. Devoted music scholar. Lifelong internet fan.

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