Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary in quality and size, and some have features that others don't. In most situations we advise using the filter your HVAC manufacturer recommends pairing with your unit.

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

A larger ranking indicates the filter can grab finer particulates. This sounds good, but a filter that catches finer dust can clog faster, heightening pressure on your equipment. If your unit isn’t designed to function with this model of filter, it could lower airflow and create other problems.

Unless you live in a hospital, you probably don’t have to have a MERV level above 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC units are specifically engineered to run with a filter with a MERV ranking lower than 13. Sometimes you will find that good systems have been made to operate with a MERV ranking of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV rating of 5 should get most of the common triggers, like pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters assert they can stop mold spores, but we suggest having a professional remove mold instead of trying to conceal the problem with a filter.

Sometimes the packaging demonstrates how regularly your filter should be exchanged. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the extra cost.

Filters are created from differing materials, with disposable fiberglass filters being the most common. Polyester and pleated filters grab more dirt but may limit your unit’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you might tempted to use a HEPA filter, remember that's like putting a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling equipment. It’s highly unlikely your unit was created to handle that level of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in Wheeling, consider getting a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works alongside your comfort system.