Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters are different in quality and size, and some have specifications that others don't. In most situations we recommend installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer says to pair with your equipment.

All filters are classified with MERV ratings, which go from 1–20. MERV is short for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher ranking indicates the filter can catch finer particulates. This sounds good, but a filter that catches finer dirt can become blocked more rapidly, heightening pressure on your equipment. If your equipment isn’t designed to work with this kind of filter, it could reduce airflow and create other issues.

Unless you are in a medical facility, you probably don’t have to have a MERV ranking higher than 13. In fact, many residential HVAC systems are specifically designed to work with a filter with a MERV rating under 13. Occasionally you will learn that decent systems have been designed to operate with a MERV rating of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should trap many daily annoyance, like pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters say they can trap mold spores, but we suggest having a professional get rid of mold rather than trying to mask the issue with a filter.

Usually the packaging indicates how frequently your filter should be exchanged. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters last longer, and are worth the added cost.

Filters are made from different materials, with single-use fiberglass filters being the most common. Polyester and pleated filters catch more debris but may limit your unit’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you could be interested in using a HEPA filter, know that's like adding a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling unit. It’s very unrealistic your unit was designed to work with level of resistance. If you’re worried about indoor air quality. This unit works in tandem with your comfort system.

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