The air filter is not something that you may think about all that much when it comes to the comfort and efficiency of your home. However, it is as important to your home’s HVAC system as lightbulbs are to your electrical system and taps are to your plumbing system. That is because that innocuous piece of equipment plays a huge role in the air quality of your home as well as the energy efficiency of your home.
That means choosing the right filter is very important. There are a lot of different choices that can become confusing and overwhelming if you don’t know what you are looking for. There is no need to be bewildered and befuddled though, once you focus on the specifics of what you need for your home, you will find that making the right choice will come a lot more easily.
One of the most important features of an air filter is trapping particulate matter and removing it from the air, which makes the air in the home much cleaner. Particulate matter includes things like smoke, dust, bacteria, pollutants, and other things that can affect the air quality. The level of filtration of an air filter is indicated by its MERV (Minimum Efficiency Value Rating) rating. The higher the MERV rating, the better it is at filtering particulate matter, however, you do not necessarily need an air filter with a very high MERV rating as even the low rated ones do a good job of filtering out basic particulates.
The following list shows you what kinds of particulates are filtered out depending on the MERV rating. Note that the higher rated filters also capture the particulates the lower rated filters do:
- 1 to 4 – Mostly just dust, other particulates can get through.
- 5 to 8 – Pollen, dust mites, mold. This level is good for people with mild allergies and is appropriate for most homes.
- 8 to 16 – Odor and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). VOCs are gases emitted by certain solids or liquids like aerosol sprays, furniture polish, pesticides, and more. If you are especially allergic to these, then you may need an air filter with a higher MERV rating.
Most homes only need a filter in the seven to twelve range as filters rated thirteen and higher are mainly for specialized buildings like hospitals and laboratories. The higher rated filters are mainly for people with severe allergic conditions. If you do not need a higher rated filter, then you should not get one. See the next section for the reason why.
Your air filter has a big effect on your energy bill. That is because the fan of your AC unit has to push air through the filter and the harder it has to push, the more energy it uses, and the higher your electric bill becomes. There are a few things that can affect this, a dirty filter is one, so make sure to clean or replace it when it gets too clogged. The type of filter also has an effect.
It was mentioned in the previous section that air filters with high MERV ratings capture a lot of particulate matter from the air. However, they also restrict air flow, which means that the fan has to work harder. That is why you should not get an air filter with a very high MERV rating if you don’t actually need it. Certain types of air filters also restrict the air flow, leading to higher energy bills. Pleated fiberglass filters capture a lot of particulates but they also make the fan of the HVAC unit work harder. So consider how an air filter will affect your energy usage before buying one.
Some air filters are disposable and should be thrown away and replaced when they get dirty. Other air filters are washable and need to be cleaned when they get dirty. In either case you will be replacing or cleaning the air filter every six months or so, assuming you get a good quality one; if you didn’t, then you will be replacing the filter much more frequently. Basically, if you want your air filter to be maintenance free, then get a disposable one; if you don’t want to keep replacing your filter and you don’t mind cleaning every couple of months, then get a washable filter.
Think About What Is Important To You When Choosing An Air Filter
As you can see, choosing the right air filter for your home is all about balancing your priorities. You need to consider whether filtration, energy efficiency, or maintenance are most important to you and make your choice based on that decision. It is easy to find out about those qualities beforehand, so that should make your ultimate decision a little easier. So don’t stress about buying the right air filter; it might be an important part of your home but selecting the right one is a fairly simple decision once you think about what is most important to you.