You’ve probably experienced the feeling of confusion when trying to select the correct home air filter for your needs. What’s the best one? Is the more expensive products worth the investment? These are just a couple of the questions that make the selection mind-boggling. Let Teays Valley Service Experts try to help you de-mystify the air filter dilemma.
Here’s a tried and true way to determine how efficient your old filter is (NOTE: To avoid a big mess, we highly recommend conducting this test outside or over a protected surface): Hold the filter horizontally, then using standard table salt, begin to pour the salt through the filter to see the quantity that comes out the other side. If some or all the salt falls through the filter, then you know that the filter will let dust pass through as well. You might want to upgrade your filter to something more efficient.
Home air filter selection depends primarily on three factors: Size, material and MERV rating.
1) Filter Size
Size is the easiest factor to ascertain. Simply look at the label of your existing filter to see the height by width and thickness, or just measure it yourself. Typically home air filters are 1” thick, but there are a number of standard width and height dimensions, and some systems have thicker filters.
2) Material & MERV Rating
MERV ratings are the efficiencies of the filter on a scale of 16. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This number tells the user, under the least efficient conditions, how well the filter is designed to trap contaminants.
As a basic example, these are some typical MERV ratings and how they connect to efficiencies. This is only a guide, so be sure to read the filter manufacturers’ information when shopping for specific filters.
Rating Average Filtration Efficiency
MERV 1-4 60-80%
Fiberglass, Disposable Panel, Washable metal/synthetic, self-charging (Passive)
MERV 5-8 80-95%
Pleated, Media panel, Cube
MERV 9-12 >95%
MERV 13-16 >98%
Be Careful About High MERV Ratings
While a higher MERV number may provide better filtration efficiency, it is critical to understand that too high a MERV filter may also cost you more to operate your furnace and AC system. The higher the MERV, the less the air may flow through the system, and the harder the system may need to work. Your goal is to get the right balance between air flow, air filtration level and energy efficiency.
Consider it this way, the most efficient ‘filter’ would equivalent to a piece of plywood that prevents ALL contaminants and all the air from getting into your Hurricane home. That's maximum air filtration, but would also be like living in a box.
A safe bet for most systems would be a MERV 6-8. A higher MERV filter should be used based upon the advice of your Teays Valley Service Experts representative to ensure your system has the capability of moving the proper volume of air through higher efficiency filters. You normally do not want to give up energy-efficiency for filter efficiency; you want a balance of the two. However, if your family deals with allergies or respiratory problems and a high MERV rated filter is required, consider a whole-home air filtration solution that will satisfy your energy and filter efficiency needs.
Filtration has changed greatly over the past few years. Initially, home air filters were used in the furnace or air handler only to protect the comfort equipment itself. The story is different today. Hurricane area homeowners expect their air filter to save kids from a a growing list of harmful pollutants, dust mites, and even prevent the need for dusting. Dare to dream!