Every homeowner needs HVAC filter 101 lessons. Nobody hands us a checklist with all of the tasks that need to be done when we become homeowners. However, missing core tasks can be detrimental to the health and well-being of our households. This is especially true when it comes to HVAC air filters. Filtration is essential for maintaining a healthy household. HVAC air filters are important because they:

  • Filter dirt, debris, pet hair, pollen, contaminants, and other things lingering inside the air in our homes.
  • Keep our systems running as efficiently as possible.
  • Help to prolong the life of an HVAC system.
  • Reduce risks for illnesses and allergies in our households.

While there are several different types of HVAC air filters to choose from for your home, there’s something that all filters have in common. Every air filter that you can purchase comes with something called a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating. A MERV rating tells you how effective a specific filter is at removing airborne particles of various sizes. A higher MERV rating indicates better efficiency and performance for removing smaller particles.

What kind of MERV rating should you be striving for in your home? MERV ratings between 1 and 13 are recommended for residential HVAC systems. Some “elite” filters offer ratings that go all the way up to 20. However, a higher number isn’t necessarily better after a certain point. That’s because high-rated filters can actually begin to restrict the airflow in your system. This provides the opposite result from what you’re hoping to achieve. When shopping for HVAC air filters for your home, it’s helpful to know that MERV ratings between 17 and 20 are only recommended for use in commercial buildings. Next, check out the different types of HVAC air filters consumers should know about!

Fiberglass Air Filters

Fiberglass air filters are favored for their affordability. These disposable filters are also gentle on HVAC systems because they cause reduced strain when drawing in the air during the filtering process. While they are great for filtering out large particles, fiberglass air filters aren’t always the best at filtering out small particles. This shouldn’t be a problem for most households. However, you might not be satisfied with fiberglass air filters if someone in your household suffers from severe allergies or respiratory problems. The last thing to say about fiberglass air filters is that homeowners should sit down to do the math on the true cost of this option. While fiberglass filters are often cheaper than other options, they can sometimes cost just as much as “better” filters due to the fact that they need to be replaced more frequently.

Pleated Air Filters

A pleated air filter is usually made of either cotton or polyester. These filters are generally slightly more expensive than standard fiberglass filters. However, the price is justified when you consider that they are much better at filtering dust, pollen, mold spores, dander, and other fine particles compared to fiberglass air filters. The secret to know when searching for good pleated air filters is that products with more pleats actually tend to provide better filtering power. It’s also possible to find high-efficiency pleated air filters that are even better at filtering ultra-small particles compared to standard pleated air filters.

Washable Air Filters

Not everyone feels comfortable about the environmental ramifications of tossing away air filters once they’re full. This is where washable air filters come into the picture. In addition to cutting down on waste, a washable air filter can also be an economic choice because you’re simply reusing the same filter instead of purchasing new filters every 30 to 90 days. Unfortunately, the downside to washable filters is that they tend to be less effective at reducing small particles compared to disposable filters.

You will also have to put in the “grunt work” of washing your filter every few months. The process involves vacuuming and rinsing filters to remove dirt and particles. It’s also important to dry a filter thoroughly before putting it back in place. Putting a damp filter into your system could cause dangerous mold and bacterial buildup inside your home.

HEPA Filters

This is the option to know if someone in your home suffers from allergies or respiratory issues. HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters are effective at screening up to 99.97% of mold, dust, pollen, viruses, bacteria, dander, and other pollutants from the air. These filters can also be helpful if you have multiple pets in your household, live in an area with increased pollution, or have a home with chronically poor indoor air quality. While HEPA filters are significantly more expensive compared to standard HVAC air filters, many homeowners find that the investment is more than justified because it enables them to enhance the health of their households.

UV Filters

While UV (ultraviolet) filters aren’t as common as other options, they are worth considering if you’re meticulous when it comes to the air quality inside your home. UV filters work by killing bacteria and viruses using short-wave UV light. In addition to eliminating everyday pollutants, UV filters are also excellent for getting rid of mold spores. It’s important to know about some of the downsides of UV filters before committing to this option.

First, UV filters can potentially exacerbate asthma and allergy symptoms. The reason why is that these filters can potentially convert oxygen molecules that are in the air into ozone molecules that are known to cause chest pain and coughing. UV filters are also less powerful against dust particles than standard filters. While you may get the benefits of removing bacteria and viruses from your air, you could still be dealing with the irritation of dust, dander, and other fine particles in your home. Lastly, UV filters tend to be significantly more expensive than other filters.

Choosing the Right HVAC Air Filter for Your Home

Choosing the right type of air filter for your home isn’t always easy. There are many factors in play within your household that tilt the pros and cons. That’s why bringing in your local HVAC pros to help you find the best option is always smart. Delaware Heating & Air Conditioning is proud to offer our clients expert advice regarding the right filters for achieving the best air quality possible. When assessing your home, we’ll look at the following:

  • The recommendations and instructions provided by your HVAC system manufacturer. Ultimately, homeowners need to default to what the manufacturer has decided is the right option for getting optimal performance from a unit. If there’s some wiggle room within your manufacturer’s guidelines, we’ll show exactly what that means in terms of the options that are on the table.
  • The age of your HVAC system.
  • Characteristics of your home that affect indoor air quality. This can include your home’s age, ventilation, air quality, and more. It can also include your pets!
  • Your personal preferences.

The pros at Delaware Heating & Air Conditioning aren’t just here to help you find the right filter for your HVAC system. We can also help you maintain your system properly to get the best performance possible. If you prefer to take a hands-off approach to change your air filter, we can schedule routine appointments based on the ideal frequency of filter changes at your home using some of the factors covered above. That means you’ll never have to deal with removing, cleaning, or disposing of filters on your own! We can also perform regular maintenance and inspections to keep everything running smoothly. You can count on our pros to spot any problems with your HVAC system before they become major headaches. Get more from your HVAC system by getting the right air filter. Contact Delaware Heating & Air Conditioning today!