How You Can Choose From the Many Air Filter Types?

Red-headed girl blowing her nose in the middle of a living room

We all know it’s important to change out the air filter in our HVAC units on a regular basis. What most people don’t know is what kind to buy. Many people look down the long aisle of air filter types in the store and either Google “which air filter should I buy?” or “why are there so many air filter types?” or “why does this one cost so much?” First we want you to know that Jake’s Heating & Cooling is always ready to help answer any of your questions, and if you are in the areas around North Myrtle Beach SC; Long, SC; Ocean Isle Beach, NC; or Calabash, NC, we are here to meet all your HVAC needs. But if you don’t live in these areas, let’s talk about how you can find the right air filter for your home.

The first thing you need to know is that your system will limit some of your options. Many HVAC systems are designed for a 1” filter, so any of the thicker air filter types are off the table unless you want to invest in modifications. Don’t worry too much, though, because there are many good options for units with the 1” filters. Another consideration is the type of filtering system the unit has. For example, an electronic filter system will require specific styles.

Your individual needs are also part of the formula for choosing any of the many air filter types. If someone living in the home has severe allergies, you will need a filter designed to block allergens such as pollen, pet dander, dust, mold spores, etc. Those air filters typically cost more initially and further restrict air flow, which can tax and even shorten the lifespan of your system, while also costing you more in energy costs.

One more variable to consider in your decision is how often you plan to replace or wash the filter. Failure to maintain the system through regular filter replacements or cleaning will sometimes void a manufacturer’s warranty, and it certainly hinders the effectiveness of your overall HVAC system.

So in summary, we need to find you a filter that:

  1. Fits the size and style of the HVAC system
  2. Meets the needs of the residents
  3. Doesn’t overwork your system, causing damage
  4. Requires a level of maintenance you are comfortable with

Let’s look at what various air filter types offer:

Washable

Many washable air filters have a MERV rating (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) as low as 1-3.

  • Filters:
    • Pollen
    • Dust
    • Hair and Fur
  • Does Not Filter:
    • Mold Spores
    • Dust Mites
    • Smoke
    • Viruses

The advantages of washable filters are long term cost savings and maximum airflow, which is good for your system. The downsides are the weak performance at air quality control and the increased maintenance, because they must be physically cleaned and not just replaced.

Fiberglass

Basic, cheap fiberglass air filters are in some ways superior to the other options. Porous and with slick surface materials, fiberglass is cheaply produced, which means it is cheap to buy; cheap to operate, because there is little resistance to airflow, using less energy; and cheap to use long term, since the filters are not obstructing airflow as much and are, consequently, not damaging your HVAC system. With a MERV rating of just 2-4, these aren’t for homes with people with significant allergy problems or other sensitivities.

  • Filters:
    • Pollen
    • Dust
    • Dust Mites
    • Hair and Fur
  • Does Not Filter:
    • Mold Spores
    • Smoke
    • Viruses

While these filters are poor at removing allergens and pollutants from the air, they are cost-effective, and based on particular needs, a great option for many. Plus, if the low cost will help you replace them more often, it might just be the way to go.

Pleated

One of the most common of the air filter types is pleated. These are still relatively cheap, while adding mold spores to the list of undesirables mostly removed from the air in your home. Besides the allergy benefits, pleated filters can also impede the growth of mold around your home. Fewer spores circulating means reduced opportunities for footholds.

  • Filters:
    • Pollen
    • Dust
    • Dust Mites
    • Hair and Fur
    • Mold Spores
  • Does Not Filter:
    • Smoke
    • Viruses

Pleated filters are readily available and cost effective while still allowing decent airflow, which is why they are so popular. They hit the sweet spot of taking care of the people in your home (MERV rating of 6-10) without harming your system and costing you a lot of money.

Electronic Media

One of the rarer air filter types for homes, due mostly to their high initial cost, is electronic media filters. With a MERV rating of 8-16, these are a preferred option for people with severe allergies or other sensitivities. They also only require maintenance once a year, so they are often chosen by people with multiple properties or people unlikely to change their filters monthly.

  • Filters:
    • Pollen
    • Dust
    • Dust Mites
    • Hair and Fur
    • Mold Spores
    • Smoke
    • Viruses

The down side to the electronic media filter is the cost upfront. These require special structures installed onto the HVAC system, so there are equipment and installation costs to consider.

HEPA

In some of the previous options, High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance (HEPA) versions are available. HEPA filters, with a MERV of 14-20, sound like the obvious choice. However, dense filters block airflow, which can damage many systems and also create other problems through reduced airflow like poor circulation and temperature control. In addition to the mold, dust, viruses, hair, fur, pollen, and smoke of the previously mentioned filters, HEPA filters also remove many particulates down to 0.3 microns, which includes some:

  • Bacteria
  • Asbestos
  • Carbon Dust
  • Microbes

HEPA filters are most commonly used well in hospitals or industrial scale HVAC systems. However, if residents in your home have severe asthma or COPD, these may be worth the investment.

Obviously we think home air quality is a big deal. Air quality equates to quality of life for many people and it’s something to take seriously. If you agree, consider Jake’s Heating & Cooling. We’ve devoted years of successful practice to learning and honing our craft in order to bless people, and we want to do that for you. Contact us with any questions about HVAC systems or home air quality, and we think you’ll find that we know what we’re doing and that we are eager to take care of you! Let’s do this!

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