Ever stood in front of the air filter section in your favorite hardware store and thought: “Which one should I buy?” “What about this expensive fancy one?” “MERV what?” If you have, we can guarantee you that you are not alone. Selecting the proper air filter for your HVAC system can be difficult when there’s no less than a million different choices. Well, at least it feels that way — but we can help point you in the right direction.
Why the type of HVAC air filter you choose matters
The main purpose of the air filter inside your heating and cooling system is to gather dirt and debris from the air circulating throughout your home. This keeps it out of the air, out of your lungs, out of the carpet, and out of the system components, too!
Perhaps the key point is that all the conditioned air is passing through that filter. The more obstructed the filter, the harder your HVAC system has to work to blow air through it. If your air handler/blower motor is working too hard, this can decrease equipment life and cause poor heating & cooling performance. It can even lead to premature breakdowns and expensive, last minute repairs.
About that fancy air filter
So, while you’re shopping at your hardware store, you are seeing a lot of filters for sale that might seem pricey. These filters often have higher MERV ratings, which in general means that they are rated to trap more particles than filters with a lower rating.
Where’s the problem, then, you ask? Why wouldn’t I want a better quality air filter that traps more airborne particles, allergens, and so on? Isn’t it worth the extra money?
The answer depends quite a bit on how often you intend to replace your filter, the needs of your home and its occupants, as well as the needs of your HVAC system.
What about cheaper HVAC air filters?
Cheaper air filters can often come with a lower MERV rating, meaning that they may not capture as many particles as a filter with a higher MERV rating. However, cheaper air filters can be simpler, lighter, and of course – less expensive. The simpler filtration elements inside these types of air filters can allow for easier airflow through your HVAC system, meaning your air handler doesn’t have to work as hard to circulate the conditioned air.
So what type of HVAC air filter is better for me?
Well, we don’t know just yet – but perhaps one example can help — from the author’s own home.
My home was built in the late 1950’s and, unfortunately, the central ducts were built too small. This means that the air handler in my system has to work harder than it was designed to, regardless of whatever filter I have installed. In the past I had installed a “fancy” expandable filter that promised to filter dander, allergens, pet hair, etc. – something very important to me, as we have 4 furry friends living with us. Also, both my wife and I suffer from asthma.
The problem though is that this air filter could almost double as a warm blanket if you disassembled it! It’s made of a thicker, heavier type of material that, to be certain, does a great job of filtering both larger contaminants (bunny hair) and smaller contaminants (dust, etc.). However, it also caused my system to work much harder than it needed to, possibly contributing to an unexpected new AC installation that was required soon after I moved in.
For me, a more ideal solution was to install a whole home air purification system — which is designed to run alongside your air handler to clump smaller particles together — and utilize a more standard type of filter with better airflow. This enables particles in my home’s circulated air to be more easily trapped by a standard air filter. As long as I replace my air filter once a month (or close to this, as needed) I feel that this combination provides the best balance of performance, price, and indoor air quality for me and my family.
Next steps to discover the best air filter for your HVAC system
We strongly recommend that you give us a call at 224-419-5324 to schedule an inspection or tune up of your furnace or AC as the first step in determining your ideal filter. Our technician can inspect the filter you currently have installed to get an idea of how it may be affecting both your HVAC equipment as well as your indoor air quality. Depending on the needs of your home, the amount of filtration you need, and how often you plan to replace your filter – we can recommend the best filter choice for you as well as any additional equipment that can improve your indoor air quality. You might even want to have us test your indoor air quality as well — you might be surprised at what you see.