If you’re like most homeowners, you probably don’t often think about your home’s air filter. After all, it’s one of those things that’s functioning out of your sight. But it’s an important part of keeping the air in your home clean and breathable. And at some point, you’re going to need to buy a new one.
The choice may seem overwhelming. Is there one brand of filters that works better than the others? Does price matter? What about the material that the filter’s made from?
Here are some factors to keep in mind before you buy a new air filter.
Filters come in a variety of designs. Plain sheets of fiberglass will filter your air, but these filters will need to be replaced more often. Thicker, pleated filters will provide you with more surface area to catch particles with, giving your filter a longer life. There are also washable filters that can be reused, or electrostatic filters that attract dust with static electricity.
As well, the material your filter is made of matters too. A media filter, made of compressed and pleated material, is many times more effective than a fiberglass filter.
Measure Your Unit
The height and length of units can vary, so be sure to measure your unit before making your purchase. If your filter isn’t the proper size, it won’t be able to work correctly.
An air filter’s Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) informs you about the size of particles that your filter will be able to catch. Ratings go from 1 to 20, and a higher rated filter will be able to catch smaller particles than a lower rated one. Home filters are typically between 8 to 13, and will be able to catch many common allergens and pollutants.
So why not go with the highest rating possible, if it means cleaner air with fewer pollutants? It may sound tempting. But be aware that a filter with a higher MERV rating can come at the cost of restricting air flow in your home. Your furnace and air conditioner may have to work harder to operate, costing you more money. And if you don’t have allergies, there’s no real benefit to filtering out every last particle in the air.
But if you or someone in your family does have severe allergies or respiratory problems, you may want to consider HEPA filters. These have a MERV rating of 17 or higher, so they’re able to trap a very high percentage of common allergens and pollutants. The peace of mind of filtering out unwanted allergens may outweigh the downsides of restricted air flow.
If you’re still confused about which air filter to buy, take a look at the manufacturer’s recommendations for your unit. Or ask an HVAC specialist during an annual maintenance checkup of your home’s systems.
Have you replaced your air filter lately?