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What Are the Different Types of Air Filters for HVAC Systems?

HVAC Filters

As a homeowner, you should already know that replacing your HVAC system’s air filter on a regular basis is important to the longevity of your equipment, system energy efficiency, and indoor air quality. When shopping for a replacement air filter, you may feel overwhelmed with the many different types of HVAC filters available for use with your furnace, air conditioner, or heat pump. A-1 Mechanical introduces you to the different types of air filters and explains which one might be best for your home.

Efficiency Ratings of Air Filters

Before we get into the different air filters you can purchase, let’s talk about filter efficiency. All types of air filters use MERV ratings to measure their performance efficiency. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value, and this number tells you how effective a particular filter is at removing airborne particles of a certain size. The higher the MERV rating, the more efficient the filter’s performance when removing small pollutant particles.

For air filters that are suitable for use in residential heating and cooling systems, MERV ratings range from 1 to about 13. Though the MERV scale goes all the way up to 20, at a certain point the efficiency of a filter can begin to restrict airflow in an HVAC system which can cause more harm than good. MERV 17 to 20 filters should only be used in commercial buildings and specific environments, while MERV 14 to 16 filters may be used in a residential air cleaner that works alongside the home’s HVAC system.

Typically, new forced air HVAC equipment will come with a standard 1-inch disposable filter that has a MERV rating between 1 to 4. These are the least efficient types of air filters available. Upgrading to a higher MERV filter can provide better protection for your heating and cooling system as well as better contaminant control for improved indoor air quality.

Types of Air Filters for HVAC Systems

There are several different air filter types you can use in your home’s heating or air conditioning system. Each type has its own pros and cons, so familiarize yourself with the options before you shop for replacement filters.

  • Fiberglass filters: Fiberglass filters use fiberglass material to filter out airborne particles passing through the HVAC system. These air filters are the most budget-friendly option, but their performance is often found lacking by some homeowners. Fiberglass filters have low MERV ratings and are not very effective for removing small particulate matter from the indoor air supply. Also, they need to be replaced more frequently than other types of air filters.
  • Pleated filters: Pleated filters use a cotton or polyester fiber material for filtration. The material is folded into pleats, providing more surface area to trap contaminant particles. This choice is typically a bit more expensive than fiberglass filters, but they are more efficient for removing finer particles from the air as their MERV ratings tend to run in the middle of the road for residential HVAC filters, giving users a longer filter life compared to lower quality options.
  • Washable filters: If you’re concerned about waste, you may opt to use a washable filter for your HVAC system. These types of air filters can be reused over and over again – instead of throwing the used filter away and installing a new one, just wash and dry this filter and use it again! These types of air filters are better for the environment because their use reduces waste, which also allows users to save money on purchasing disposable replacement filters. They do have lower MERV ratings than some disposable filters and aren’t extremely effective at filtering out smaller particles. Because of their low MERV rating, homeowners often need to wash these filters several times each year. If you want low-maintenance air filters, disposables may be your preferred choice.

If you have some type of air cleaner or air purification system that uses a filter installed with your HVAC system, there are different types of air filters available for use in this equipment.

  • Pleated filters designed for use in a media air cleaner filter cabinet can be thicker than ones used in the standard HVAC system, offering higher MERV ratings and longer filter life.
  • Electrostatic filters offer media filtration and use an electrostatic charge to help capture small particles. They sometimes have difficulty effectively trapping larger contaminants though, like mold spores and large dust particles. Depending on the model, these types of air filters can be disposable or washable.
  • HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters are extremely efficient, removing as much as 99.97 percent of airborne contaminants including dust, pollen, bacteria, and viruses. Because of their extreme efficiency, HEPA air filters cannot be used in all equipment due to potential airflow restriction.

Find the Right Types of Air Filters for Use in Your HVAC System

Curious as to which types of filters are suitable for use with your HVAC equipment? Contact A-1 Mechanical today to speak with a professional and learn more about your air filter options.

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