Air Filter Choices: Know What to Shop For

Air Filter Choices: Know What to Shop ForThe primary safeguard against unhealthy air quality in your home is your HVAC system’s air filter. Central air and heating is a closed loop system that continuously recirculates a controlled volume of interior air. While this ensures proper air balance in the home and keeps temperatures consistent, it also means that anything that gets into indoor air tends to stay in indoor air and even accumulate to unhealthy levels – unless it’s captured by the air filter.

Air filters are rated on the MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) scale ranging from 1 to 16. The higher the rating, the more efficiently the filter takes airborne particulates out of the air. Most air filters are disposable and should be changed regularly to maintain both filtration effectiveness and the proper level of airflow through the system.

Fiberglass filters. Representing the bottom tier of air filtration, these inexpensive panel filters with MERV ratings from 1 to 4 should be considered throwaways. Their primary value is simply to remove the largest particles of inorganic dust and protect the blower motor and other components. Ninety percent of indoor airborne contaminants will escape fiberglass filters in this MERV range.

Pleated air filters. Incorporating pleated polyester or cotton media, these filters occupy the MERV range between 8 and 13. Pleating increases the filtration surface area so the media captures up to 90 percent of airborne particulates as small as 1 micron. This includes mold spores, pollen, dust, carpet fibers, dust mites and other common indoor pollutants. Filters in this MERV range usually provide the best compromise between filtration efficiency and optimum airflow.

High efficiency filters. Ranked above MERV 13, high efficiency filters remove airborne particulates down to a size of 0.3 microns, including viruses and vapors such as tobacco smoke. However, this increased efficiency comes at a price of restricted airflow. For most residential systems, system airflow velocity is insufficient to overcome the filter obstruction so high-efficiency filters are not an appropriate choice unless you’re willing to pay for system modifications to accommodate the denser and wider filter.

Serving Terre Haute area homeowners since 1922, Paitson Bros. Heating and Air Conditioning is ready with more advice on selecting the right air filter to protect your indoor air quality.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Terre Haute, Indiana about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about air filters and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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