Trying to select the right air filter for your the U.S. home can be a daunting experience. What does my system require? Should you just get the cheapest? These are just two of many of the questions that make purchasing air filters for your home mind-boggling. Let Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing attempt to resolve your home air filter questions and allow you to continue enjoying the comfort of your home without concern.
Here’s a tried and true way to figure out how efficient your existing filter is (NOTE: To avoid a big mess, we highly recommend conducting this test outside or over a protected surface): Position the filter horizontally, then with common table salt, begin to pour the salt through the filter to see the amount comes out the other side. If some or all the salt falls through the filter, then you know that the filter will let dust pass through as well. You really should upgrade your filter to something more efficient.
There are 3 primary considerations when choosing a household air filter; Size, Material and MERV rating.
1) Filter Size
Size is the easiest factor to ascertain. Simply look at the label of your existing filter to see the proper measurements, or just measure it yourself. Most home air filters are 1” thick, but there are a numerous standard width and height dimensions, and some systems have thicker filters.
2) Material & MERV Rating
Filter efficiencies are given a number from 1-16 called the MERV rating. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This number identifies for the user, under the least efficient conditions, how well the filter is designed to contain contaminants.
As a basic example, these are some common MERV ratings and how they connect to efficiencies. This is only a guide, so don’t forget to read the filter manufacturers’ information when purchasing specific filters.
Rating Average Filtration Efficiency
MERV 1-4 60-80%
Fiberglass, Disposable Panel, Washable metal/synthetic, self-charging (Passive)
MERV 5-8 80-95%
Pleated, Media panel, Cube
MERV 9-12 >95%
MERV 13-16 >98%
Be Careful About High MERV Ratings
While a higher MERV number may offer better filtration efficiency, it is critical to understand that too high a MERV filter may also take more to operate your HVAC system. The higher the MERV, the more difficult the air may flow through the system, and the harder the system may need to work. Your goal is to get the right balance between air flow, air filtration level and energy efficiency.
Consider it this way, the most efficient ‘filter’ would equivalent to a piece of plywood that would just trap ALL contaminants and all the air from entering your the U.S. home. That’s definitely the “best” air filtration, but would also be like living in a box.
Your best bet for most systems would be a MERV 6-8. A higher MERV filter should be used based upon the advice of your Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing service advisor to ensure your system has the capability of moving the correct amount of air through higher efficiency filters. You generally do not want to give up energy-efficiency for filter efficiency; you want a balance of the two. However, if your family suffers from allergies or respiratory problems and a high MERV rated filter is required, consider a whole-home air filtration solution that will satisfy your energy and filter efficiency needs.
Filtration has changed significantly over the past several years. Early on, home air filters were used in the furnace or air handler only to protect the comfort equipment itself. But (in the words of Bob Dylan) the times they are a changing. the U.S. area homeowners expect their air filter to save loved ones from a a growing list of harmful pollutants, dust mites, and even prevent the need for dusting. Dare to dream!
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