Are all HVAC air filters the same?

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

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

A larger rating indicates the filter can grab more miniscule substances. This sounds great, but a filter that catches finer substances can become obstructed faster, raising pressure on your unit. If your system isn’t designed to run with this type of filter, it may reduce airflow and cause other troubles.

Unless you live in a hospital, you likely don’t need a MERV ranking higher than 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC equipment is specifically engineered to operate with a filter with a MERV rating under 13. Sometimes you will find that decent systems have been designed to operate with a MERV rating of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV rating of 5 should trap many 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 changed. From what we know, the accordion-style filters last longer, and are worth the added cost.

Filters are manufactured from varying materials, with disposable fiberglass filters being standard. Polyester and pleated filters grab more debris but may decrease 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 installing a MERV 16 filter in your comfort system. It’s highly doubtful your unit was created to handle that amount of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in Cleveland, think about adding a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This unit works in tandem with your comfort system.