When you think about home maintenance and upkeep, what tasks come to mind? We’re betting that changing your air filter probably isn’t high on the list, but don’t feel bad, many homeowners don’t change their air filters as often as they should; most will remember when the dust starts to accumulate on furniture and lamps, or even around the air vents themselves. This, unfortunately, is not the best scenario for your home or your air conditioner, especially if you are using a poor quality air filter. But, how do you know which air filter is best for your home and which should be avoided?
Air Filter Ratings
First, it’s important to understand the rating system for air filters. Many use MERV, which stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The ratings, which range from 1 to 20, are a measure of the filter’s ability to remove particles, resist air flow and its life expectancy. Like SEER ratings, higher numbers indicate a more efficient product. Some brand name air filters, however, use their own rating system. Filtrete™, for example, uses a Microparticle Performance Rating, otherwise known as MPR. The Home Depot developed its own system, known as Filter Performance Rating (FPR), for air filter brands sold through their stores. You can refer to this easy chart to see how each rating system compares to the other.
Types of Air Filters
Although there are many different air filters on the market, most used for the home fall under the Mechanical Air Filter category. This includes:
Fiberglass Air Filters – Inexpensive and disposable. Most fiberglass filters have a MERV rating between 1 and 4, and only remove about 10% of pollutants from your home’s air, even if you change them monthly.
Pleated Air Filters – Although these are better than fiberglass filters (and more expensive), they still only remove about 45% of pollutants in the air, and your filter will need 18 or more pleats to work efficiently. MERV ratings for this product fall between 10 and 15.
High Efficiency Air Filters – These types of filters will cost more, but they can help lower utility bills and remove more pollutants (85%) than other types of disposable filters. They typically have a MERV rating between 14 and 16.
HEPA Air Filters – HEPA, which stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air, is considered top-of-the-line for filters (MERV 17+) and can remove up to 98% of the pollutants in your home. Most residential air conditioners, unfortunately, will not support a HEPA filter. You typically need to install a whole-house filtration system or use a stand-alone air purifier.
Washable Air Filters are another choice, but there are conflicting opinions on whether they are a good or bad choice for your home. It’s probably safe to say that the user has more to do with the overall efficiency of this product versus the filter itself, and here’s why:
- You must wash it regularly to keep it working properly
- Since you’ll be rinsing off pollutants, you need to be careful not to clean it in an area where animals or people may come into contact with the water
- The filter must be completely dry before replacing or it may cause mold
Most people won’t want to go through that much trouble to change a filter, but, if you are diligent, you can save quite a bit of money over the life of your air system since you’ll only need to purchase a filter once every few years.
Air Filter Reminder
In general, you should change your disposable filter every three months. If you have pets or suffer from allergies, you may want to increase this to once a month to help keep dander and allergens to a minimum. An easy way to remember to change your filter is to add a reminder to your smartphone calendar or kitchen calendar (if available), but if you are prone to forgetting this type of task, it may be a good idea to sign up for the Filtrete™ 365 Program. They will send you email alerts whenever it’s time to change your air filter.
Cool Connections is Jacksonville’s leading HVAC company. We employ only the best NATE certified technicians and offer competitive rates on A/C installation and tune-ups, duct cleaning, dryer vent cleaning and other A/C services. Please contact us online or call 904-908-5252 to schedule a free consultation today!