Determining the Right Air Filter for You
The type of air filter you use for your home’s HVAC system plays a big role in your house’s air quality. The right filter can drastically reduce the number of allergens, germs, and other harmful pollutants that circulate through your home. But how do you know exactly which air filter is best for your particular HVAC system?
Consult the Manufacturer’s Instruction Booklet
To get a basic idea of what type of air filter to look for, simply take a look at your HVAC manufacturer’s instructions. There you can determine the exact size air filter you’re going to need. This is quite important, as an ill-fitting air filter will work poorly, if at all. Get down the exact measurements using the manufacturer’s instructions and you’ve narrowed your search significantly.
MERV Rating vs. Efficiency
MERV, or Minimum Efficiency Report Value, is a metric by which an air filter’s ability to capture airborne particles is measured. When a filter has a high MERV rating it means that it can stop a large percentage of particles. MERV runs on a scale of 1-9, with 1 being the lowest and 9 being the highest. Depending on the MERV rating your filter has, it will be able to stop anywhere from 60 to 95 percent of all particles. There is, however, a catch. The more effective a filter is at capturing particles, the less energy efficient it causes your HVAC system to be. A powerful filter will make your HVAC system work harder to do its job than a weaker filter. The trick is to strike a balance between your filter’s MERV rating and your HVAC system’s efficiency. Typically a residential HVAC system will do just fine with an air filter that holds a 7 or 8 MERV rating.
Washable or Disposable
The final factor in determining which air filter is best for you is more a matter of preference than anything else. Would you rather be able to simply throw away your dirty filter and replace it with a new clean one every few months, or save money on a washable one that you’re going to need to scrub clean every few months? One saves you time, the other saves you money. The choice is yours!
Do I Need a New Filter?
Before you start your search for the perfect air filter, you may want to determine whether or not you really need one. If you’d like your HVAC system to perform as efficiently as possible, you’re going to want to change your air filter every one to three months. If you haven’t changed yours in longer than that, it’s likely that you’re putting extra strain on your system. There are a few warning signs to watch for that will indicate it’s time to replace your air filter:
- Your unit is overheating
- Your home’s air quality has worsened
- Your energy bills are unusually high
- Your HVAC system isn’t as effective as usual
If any of these indicators are present, you most likely need to change your filter.