You walk in heroically, passing aisle after aisle of unneeded tools and gadgets on a mission to the back of the hardware store. There you’re met by a wall filled with thin cardboard boxes, filed on shelves that extend as far as the eye can see. You thought it was going to be one of those in-and-out trips, but now you’re not so sure.
The thought screams at you. It’s been a year since you last stocked up your home supply, and could they really have made this many more filter types since then? Thick. Thin. Basic. Allergen Reducing. Cheap. Expensive. You scratch your head in bewilderment.
We’re here to help. Here are the basics you should know when shopping for your furnace filters.
While it’s one of the easiest maintenance tasks to do, not everyone knows the necessity for regularly replacing HVAC filters in your home.
Filters, at their most basic level, protect your furnace by keeping stray dirt, debris and harmful objects from entering and potentially damaging moving parts inside your blower motor. Many filters still do only that. But over the years, more advanced filters have entered the marketplace, capable of also blocking out some pollen and mold spores from the air inside your home.
To find the right furnace filter for your needs, you must first review your furnace manufacturer’s guidelines or consult with your local heating and cooling expert. Not just any filter will do, so you want to ensure you get the right filter for your unit.
Additionally, you’ll want to look at the minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating on the filters. Ranging from 1 to 16, the higher the MERV rating the better the filter at blocking particles. And correspondingly, the higher the rating the higher the cost.
Then, depending on your furnace specs, you’ll be looking at four primary filter types:
This is by far the most common furnace filter used. Made from spun fiberglass, it’s the least effective in blocking minute debris particles and also the least expensive. At the same time, it needs to be changed once a month, so the cost can add up.
Made from either cotton paper or polyester materials, these filters take one step up the MERV rating scale. Their pleated design increasingly blocks such particles as hair and dust, while some are designed to reduce allergies by capturing mold spores, pet dander, and dust mites. Depending on the thickness, these should minimally be changed about every three months.
Available in both disposable or permanent designs, electrostatic furnace filters use electronically-charged fibers to draw in dust particles. Some also collect allergens from the air. Electrostatic filters do cost more than the aforementioned two types, but some can be cleaned and last a long time. Their MERV ratings range from 8-10.
High-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) pleated filters are by far the most effective (MERV: 14+) and most expensive ($100+) options on the market. Using ultra-fine glass fibers, HEPA filters block the most harmful particles from passing through your air ducts. However, they can come at a more damaging cost, as their design also allows the least amount of air to pass through the blower—causing your unit to work much harder than normal.
As long as your filters match the specs for your filter, then it’s up to you and your personal needs. Do you and your family suffer from allergies or asthma? Or maybe you smoke in the house? If so, filters that effectively filter out allergens, pet dander, and odors might be right for you. Or maybe you know you’ll struggle with remembering to change filters every few months. Then, a filter that lasts much longer may be the best solution for your home furnace.
Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines listed on the packaging of each filter type. However, we tell all our customers that filters can and should be changed in all seasons. While they’re called furnace filters, that doesn’t mean they should only be changed in the winter. Air passes through your unit in all seasons, so don’t forget to check your filters in the spring and summer too.
If we can ever be of any assistance in identifying the right filter for your furnace, please don’t hesitate to call us at 317-670-0171. We want you to be a hero the next time you’re in the filter aisle of your local hardware store.
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