The Difference Between HVAC Air Filters: What You Need to Know

No matter what type of HVAC system you have, air filters are a key component. They make it possible for your central air system to safely clean heated or cooled air as it makes its way through the rest of the home. But do all air filters perform the same? The answer is no. HVAC air filters differ in quality and dimensions, and some have features that others don't.

All filters are assigned MERV ratings, ranging from 1 to 20. MERV stands for Minimum Value of Efficiency Reports, and it's the most common system for measuring the filtration capabilities of an air filter. At its most basic function, an air filter removes impurities such as dust, pet dander, or 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.

With any filter, be sure to check the MERV rating. This tells you how well a filter can capture contaminants. If the MERV rating is too high, your HVAC will need to work harder to produce efficient airflow. For example, hospitals use filters with a rating of 16, but that's not necessary for your home environment, and using a filter with such a high rating will increase your energy costs.

Another rating method is the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR), a scale recognized by the Federal Trade Commission and Environmental Protection Agency that also measures air purifier efficiency. It's important to note that because the filtration process is the same between air and oven filters, some homes use a single filtration system or type of air filter for hot and cold air. In most cases, we recommend using the filter that your HVAC manufacturer recommends matching with your system. Not all filters are built equal, so choosing the right filter depends on what you need to purify the air. You'll also want to consider factors such as the cost of filters. It's wise to talk to an HVAC professional before making any decisions about air filters.

To help gather information and weigh your options, you can compare the basic pros and cons of each type of filter. Let's take a look at each type of filter and its features to narrow down the types that may be right for your home. It turns out that both ovens and air conditioning units use the same filters and perform the same functions. Alec Lower writes for Second Nature that innovations in HVAC design have made systems more efficient, to the point where less airflow is needed to run smoothly. Consult your HVAC system manual to determine the strength of your model or call an HVAC technician. 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.

These filters aren't known for improving air quality, as they can't put much effort into it and can only trap some of the dust and allergens. These filters will protect your HVAC unit from dust and dirt that could damage it, while allowing air to flow freely. Some HVAC systems aren't strong enough to push air through more restrictive filters that block smaller particles, that is, those with a higher MERV or CADR rating, which can reduce airflow and cause your home to heat and cool less efficiently. Both components clean the air as it circulates through the house, removing contaminants before the air passes through the HVAC equipment to the rest of the house. In fact, there are many different types of air filters available and choosing the right one can make a real difference to the lifespan of your HVAC system. It's strange that HVAC technicians recommend cheap fiberglass filters to people who don't remember to change them. Regularly replacing your air filter is the best thing you can do to keep your HVAC system running.

Delia Franklin
Delia Franklin

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

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