Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary in quality and dimensions, and some have specs that others don't. In most cases we advise using the filter your HVAC manufacturer says to pair with your system.

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

A larger ranking means the filter can grab finer particles. This sounds outstanding, but a filter that catches finer dirt can clog faster, raising pressure on your system. If your unit isn’t made to run with this type of filter, it may decrease airflow and cause other troubles.

Unless you are in a hospital, you probably don’t need a MERV ranking higher than 13. In fact, most residential HVAC equipment is specifically designed to operate with a filter with a MERV level under 13. Frequently you will learn that quality systems have been designed to run with a MERV ranking of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should trap many everyday annoyance, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to stop mold spores, but we recommend having a professional remove mold instead of trying to conceal the trouble with a filter.

Usually the packaging demonstrates how often your filter should be replaced. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the extra price.

Filters are manufactured from different materials, with one-use fiberglass filters being standard. Polyester and pleated filters catch more debris but may reduce your system’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you could want to use a HEPA filter, know that's like adding a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling equipment. It’s highly doubtful your system was designed to work with level of resistance. If you’re concerned about indoor air quality in Hillsborough, consider installing a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This product works along with your comfort system.