You’ve probably experienced the feeling of confusion when trying to select the correct home air filter for your needs. What’s the best one? Should you just get the cheapest? These are just a couple of the questions that make selecting home air filters so mind-boggling. Let Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing attempt to resolve your home air filter questions and allow you to continue enjoying the comfort of your home without concern.
Here’s an easy way to determine how efficient your old filter is (NOTE: To avoid a big mess, we highly recommend conducting this test outside or over a protected surface): Hold the filter horizontally, then taking everyday table salt, start pouring the salt through the filter and see how much comes out the other side. If some or all the salt falls through the filter, then you can assume that the filter will let dust that same size flow through. You should probably upgrade your filter to higher quality filter that is more efficient.
There are 3 primary considerations when choosing a household air filter; Size, Material and MERV rating.
1) Filter Size
Unless you have the proper size home air filter, you will never enjoy the full effectiveness your system and filter can provide. Simply look at the label of your existing filter to see the height by width and thickness, or just measure it yourself. The majority of home air filters are 1” thick, but there are a numerous standard width and height dimensions, and some systems have thicker filters.
2) Material & MERV Rating
MERV ratings are the efficiencies of the filter on a scale of 16. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This number tells the user, under the least efficient conditions, how well the filter is designed to trap contaminants.
To help explain the scale of this system, these are some typical MERV ratings and how they correspond to efficiencies. This is only a guide, so make sure you read the filter manufacturers’ information when buying specific filters.
Rating Average Filtration Efficiency
MERV 1-4 60-80%
Fiberglass, Disposable Panel, Washable metal/synthetic, self-charging (Passive)
MERV 5-8 80-95%
Pleated, Media panel, Cube
MERV 9-12 >95%
MERV 13-16 >98%
Be Careful About High MERV Ratings
While a higher MERV number may provide better filtration efficiency, it is critical to understand that too high a MERV filter may also take more to operate your furnace and AC system. The higher the MERV, the more difficult the air may flow through the system, and the harder the system may need to work. Your goal is to get the right balance between air flow, air filtration level and energy efficiency.
Look at it this way, the most efficient ‘filter’ would probably be a piece of plywood that stops ALL contaminants and all the air from entering your the U.S. home. That’s definitely the “best” air filtration, but would also be a terrible way to live.
Your best bet for most systems would be a MERV 6-8. A higher MERV filter should be used based upon the advice of your Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing representative to ensure your system has the capability of moving the correct amount of air through higher efficiency filters. You normally do not want to give up energy-efficiency for filter efficiency; you want a balance of the two. However, if your family deals with allergies or respiratory problems and needs a high MERV air filter, consider a whole-home air filtration solution that will satisfy your energy and filter efficiency needs.
Filtration has changed significantly over the past several years. In the beginning, home air filters were used in the furnace or air handler only to safeguard the comfort equipment itself. But (in the words of Bob Dylan) the times they are a changing. the U.S. area homeowners expect their air filter to save children from a whole host of harmful pollutants, dust mites, and even prevent the need for dusting. Dare to dream!
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