There are so many HVAC filters on the market, we completely understand it’s easy to be overwhelmed. They differenced range in price, materials, and effectiveness. The quest to find a better air filter often leaves our customers with questions like, “do I really need a HEPA filter,” and “what’s wrong with fiberglass?” Because of this, we’re sharing the pros, cons, and differences between the most common types of HVAC filters.
What Are the Most Common HVAC Filters?
There are more HVAC filters than we have time to list. So, for sake of brevity, we’re sharing the 7 most common air filters
, they are:
- Fiberglass Filters
- Pleated Filters
- HEPA Filters
- UV Filters
- Electrostatic Filters
- Washable Filters
- Media Filters
All these filters are made to serve the same function, but they’re incredibly different. The one you want in your home depends on the type of job you want it to do. Some homes have more animals and need extra pet dander protection, others have small children and need to filter dust and dirt. Our techs understand that every home has different needs. They will work directly with you to help find the best solution for your home and family.
These filters are also made from different materials. Another helpful way to tell the difference is to use the MERV (Minimum Efficient Reporting Value) rating system. Nearly all filters have a MERV rating based on how well the filter can trap indoor air pollutants. The rating system spans from 1 to 16 and the higher the number, the stronger the filter. For example:
- Filters with a MERV rating between 1 and 4 will catch things like pollen, dust mites, and carpet fibers.
- Filters rated between 5 and 8 will catch everything listed above, as well as mold spores and indoor air contaminates from things like fabric protector and hair spray.
- Any filters with a MERV rating between 9 and 12 can catch everything listed between ratings 1 through 8, and lead dust, humidifier dust, and pollution from auto emissions.
- And finally, filters with a rating of 13 to 16 will filter bacteria, tobacco smoke, sneeze particles and everything else listed above.
We’re starting this list with one of the most common filters on the market, fiberglass. These filters can be found at nearly every home improvement store and can often be sold for less than a dollar each. It’s however important to remember, when it comes to choosing the right filter for your home, you get what you are paying for.
It’s true that fiberglass filters are inexpensive, but the low initial cost can be offset by how many times you need to replace it. If you do choose fiberglass filters, we recommend changing them once a month. It’s also important to mention that fiberglass air filters are not great at catching indoor air pollutants. Their MERV rating is usually between a 2 and 4.
At Bell Brothers, we see our customer prefer pleated air filters which is the type of filter we often recommend because of its cost, effectiveness, and material options. Depending on the material, pleated filters can effectively catch pollen, dust, pet dander, and mold while still being reasonably affordable. These filters only need to be changed twice per year. Once before spring and once before winter.
They’re often made of cotton, paper, or polyester. The material is then folded into pleats and set in the filter. The excess material and larger surface area make it easier to catch things like pollen, dust, dander, and other allergens.
One thing to keep in mind is that a pleated filter’s MERV rating depends on the material and density of the product. A pleated filter with a MERV rating of 8 can pull dust, pollen, and pet dander from your air. Whereas a pleated filter with a MERV rating of 11 can catch pollen, dust, pet dander, as well as mold spores, smog and car fumes.
HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters on the other hand, are extremely strong they don’t require a MERV rating – they are in a class all their own. Due to their strength, HEPA filters are preferred by hospitals and medical settings. A home with people who suffer from extreme asthma and allergies would greatly benefit from a HEPA air filter. Please note that most families don’t require this level of protection against their indoor air quality.
Despite this, although a strong air filter can increase your home’s defense against indoor air allergies. It’s important to continue your routine housekeeping, homeowners should frequently
vacuum, dust and change bedding to help combat allergens.
The biggest complaint we hear about HEPA filters is that they can be very expensive and some common HVAC systems are too small for them. HEPA filters are much larger than your average air filter. If you think your home would benefit from this extra air protection, ask your HVAC tech if a HEPA filter would work with your current system.
When we say UV filter, we really mean a UV purification system with an additional air filter
. These two pieces work together to give your home the best indoor air possible. The UV lights target viruses, bacteria, and other things that can make you sick, while the air filter helps catch dust, dander, and allergens.
Wondering where the UV light lives in your HVAC System? They’re usually placed right above the air filter and act as an extra layer of protection for everyone in your home. When a harmful particle passes through the UV light, the light rays will target and almost “zap” the particle, causing it to fall out of the atmosphere.
Electrostatic filters use static as a magnet to pull contaminates from your treated air. Electricity is used to give unwanted air particles a charge. As these charged particles pass through the filter, they stick to the filter itself leaving your family with clean air.
These filters are most effective in homes with small children or pets
. Electrostatic filters can pull pet dander, dirt, and dust from any treated air. As an added benefit, these filters can be either disposable or washable, it all depends on your personal preference. You can further customize the electrostatic filter you buy by choosing the material and MERV rating.
We’re hearing more and more of our customers ask about the sustainability of an air filter. Fortunately, the HVAC industry is making advancements in sustainable green products, one of its advancements are washable filters
, which can have its pros and cons.
The best thing about washable filters is that you’ll never need to replace it. Although, one drawback can be the upfront cost for a washable filter, it’s important to keep in mind that washable filters pay for themselves over time.
It’s important to note, that although great for the environment, a washable filter may not be good in homes with allergy or asthma sufferers. The material washable filters are made of can’t effectively trap things like pet dander or pollen. The same material can also foster mold growth if not cleaned and dried properly before placing back into your system.
One thing that stands out media filters out from the rest, is their size. A majority of the filters on this list are an inch thick or less. The standard media filter is around 8 inches thick. That means your air is getting 7 extra inches of protection. Because of their heft, media filters can provide you with the same quality air as a high-MERV filter, but without some of the drawbacks like reduced air flow or static pressure.
There are just a few drawbacks, if you’re considering a media filter. This filter needs to be installed by a professional. Because of its size, media filters need to be handed by someone who’s certified and knows how to insert the filter without damaging the system. Another complaint people have about media filters is that they don’t filter smells like smoke or cooking odors.
Want to Know Which HVAC Filter is Best for Your Home?
If so, then call the experts at Bell Brothers. We’ve been in the business for over 20 years, so we know our way around an HVAC system. If you’re in Sacramento, Stockton, Vacaville, or the Bay Area, don’t hesitate to book an appointment today. Simply call the number at the top of the screen or click here to schedule an appointment online