You’ve probably experienced the feeling of confusion when trying to select the correct home air filter for your needs. Which brand is best? Is the more expensive products worth the investment? These are just a couple of the questions that make selecting home air filters so mind-boggling. Let Teays Valley Service Experts crack the code of home air filters for you, so you can feel comfortable with your purchase.
Here’s a tried and true way to tell how efficient your old filter is (NOTE: To avoid a big mess, we highly recommend conducting this test outside or over a protected surface): Set the filter horizontally, then taking 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 an air filter that’s more efficient.
There are 3 primary considerations when choosing a household air filter; 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 dimensions, or just measure it yourself. Typically home air filters are 1” thick, but there are a variety of standard width and height dimensions, and some systems have thicker filters.
2) Material & MERV Rating
Filter efficiencies are given a number from 1-16 called the MERV rating. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This number informs 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 buying 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 take more to operate your heating and air conditioning 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 service advisor to ensure your system has the capability of moving the proper volume of air through higher efficiency filters. You generally do not want to sacrifice energy-efficiency for filter efficiency; you want a balance of the two. However, if your family deals with allergies or respiratory problems and needs a high MERV air filter, consider a whole-home air filtration solution that will satisfy your energy and filter efficiency needs.
Filtration has changed considerably 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 loved ones from a a growing list of harmful pollutants, dust mites, and even prevent the need for dusting. Dare to dream!