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 instances we advise getting the filter your HVAC manufacturer recommends pairing with your equipment.

All filters are assigned MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV means minimum efficiency reporting value.

A larger ranking means the filter can trap finer particulates. This sounds outstanding, but a filter that catches finer dirt can clog more rapidly, heightening pressure on your equipment. If your equipment isn’t created to run with this model of filter, it could lower airflow and lead to other problems.

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

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

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

Filters are manufactured from differing materials, with disposable fiberglass filters being the most common. Polyester and pleated filters trap more dust but may limit your equipment’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 unit. It’s highly unlikely your unit was designed to handle that amount of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in Wheeling, consider installing a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works alongside your comfort system.