Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters are different in quality and dimensions, and some have features that others don't. In most cases we suggest installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer recommends pairing with your equipment.

All filters are classified with MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV is short for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A larger rating means the filter can grab smaller particles. This sounds great, but a filter that catches finer substances can become blocked more rapidly, raising pressure on your unit. If your system isn’t designed to function with this model of filter, it can lower airflow and cause other troubles.

Unless you live in a hospital, you more than likely don’t need a MERV ranking higher than 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC units are specifically made to operate with a filter with a MERV rating under 13. Occasionally you will find that good systems have been engineered to operate with a MERV rating of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV rating of 5 should get the majority of the everyday nuisances, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to stop mold spores, but we recommend having a professional remove mold rather than trying to hide the trouble with a filter.

Often the packaging shows how frequently your filter should be exchanged. From what we know, the accordion-style filters last longer, and are worth the additional cost.

Filters are manufactured from varying materials, with disposable fiberglass filters being standard. Polyester and pleated filters grab more debris but may limit your equipment’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you could be interested in using a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like adding a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling system. It’s extremely doubtful your unit was designed to handle that level of resistance. If you’re worried about indoor air quality in Cleveland, think about adding a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This product works along with your comfort system.