Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary in quality and measurements, and some have features that others don't. In most instances we advise installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer says to pair with your unit.

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

A higher rating means the filter can trap smaller particles. This sounds good, but a filter that catches finer dust can become blocked more quickly, increasing pressure on your system. If your system isn’t designed to work with this type of filter, it may restrict airflow and create other troubles.

Unless you live in a medical center, you probably don’t require a MERV ranking greater than 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC equipment is specifically made to operate with a filter with a MERV rating lower than 13. Frequently you will discover that good systems have been engineered to work with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should trap most of the daily nuisances, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to catch mold spores, but we advise having a professional get rid of mold as opposed to trying to hide the problem with a filter.

Usually the packaging indicates how regularly your filter should be replaced. In our experience, the accordion-style filters last longer, and are worth the additional price.

Filters are manufactured from varying materials, with one-use fiberglass filters being the most common. Polyester and pleated filters trap more debris but may reduce your unit’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you might be interested in using a HEPA filter, remember that's like adding a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling system. It’s extremely unrealistic your unit was made to work with level of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in Savannah, think about adding a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This product works along with your HVAC system.