You’ve probably experienced the feeling of confusion when trying to select the correct home air filter for your needs. What does my system require? Is the more expensive products worth the investment? These are just some of the questions that make selecting home air filters so mind-boggling. Let Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning crack the code of home air filters for you, so you can feel comfortable with your purchase.
Here’s an easy way to determine how efficient your existing filter is (NOTE: Spare yourself a huge mess by conducting this experiment outside or with something below the filter to help keep things clear): Set the filter horizontally, then with standard table salt, start pouring the salt through the filter then see the amount comes out the other side. If some or all the salt falls through the filter, then you know that the filter will let dust that same size flow through. You should probably upgrade your filter to something more efficient.
Home air filter selection depends primarily on three factors: 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. Typically 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
Filter efficiencies are given a number from 1-16 called the MERV rating. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This number tells the user, under the least efficient conditions, how well the filter is designed to contain contaminants.
To help explain the scale of this system, these are some usual MERV ratings and how they correspond to efficiencies. This is only a guide, so don’t forget to read the filter manufacturers’ information when shopping for 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 ensure better filtration efficiency, it is very important to understand that too high a MERV filter may also take more to operate your HVAC system. The higher the MERV, the less the air may flow through the system, and the harder the system may need to work. Your objective should be to get the right balance between air flow, air filtration level and energy efficiency.
Consider it this way, the most efficient ‘filter’ would probably be a piece of plywood that would just trap ALL contaminants and all the air from getting into your Cleveland home. That's definitely the “best” air filtration, but would also be like living in a box.
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 representative to verify your system has the capability of moving the proper volume of air through higher efficiency filters. You normally do not want to lose energy-efficiency for filter efficiency; you want a balance of the two. However, if your family deals with allergies or respiratory problems and a high MERV rated filter is required, consider a whole-home air filtration solution that will satisfy your energy and filter efficiency needs.
Filtration has changed considerably over the past few years. Early on, home air filters were used in the furnace or air handler only to shelter the comfort equipment itself. Today it’s a whole new ballgame. Cleveland 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!