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 the selection mind-boggling. Let Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning crack the code of home air filters for you, so you can feel comfortable with your purchase.
Here’s a simple way to determine how efficient your old filter is (NOTE: Spare yourself a huge mess by conducting this experiment outside or with something below the filter to help keep things clear): Hold the filter horizontally, then taking everyday table salt, start pouring the salt through the filter and see the quantity that comes out the other side. If some or all the salt falls through the filter, then you can assume that the filter will let dust that same size flow through. You might want to upgrade your filter to something more efficient.
Size, MERV rating and material – these are the three primary factors used to pick the proper air filter for your home.
1) Filter Size
Unless you have the proper size home air filter, you will never enjoy the full effectiveness your system and filter can provide. Simply look at the label of your existing filter to see the dimensions, or just measure it yourself. Most 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
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 contain contaminants.
To help explain the scale of this system, these are some common MERV ratings and how they connect to efficiencies. This is only a guide, so make sure you 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 offer better filtration efficiency, it is very important to understand that too high a MERV filter may also require more to operate your HVAC system. The higher the MERV, the more difficult the air may flow through the system, and the harder the system may need to work. Your objective should be to get the right balance between air flow, air filtration level and energy efficiency.
Consider it this way, the most efficient ‘filter’ would actually be a piece of plywood that stops ALL contaminants and all the air from coming inside your Niagara Falls home. That's definitely the “best” air filtration, but would also be a terrible way to live.
Your best bet for most systems would be a MERV 6-8. A higher MERV filter should be used based upon the advice of your Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning service advisor to ensure your system has the capability of moving the correct amount of air through higher efficiency filters. You generally 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 significantly over the past ten years. Early on, home air filters were used in the furnace or air handler only to protect the comfort equipment itself. But (in the words of Bob Dylan) the times they are a changing. Niagara Falls area homeowners expect their air filter to save children from a whole host of harmful pollutants, dust mites, and even prevent the need for dusting. Dare to dream!