Every HVAC system needs a fuel source; this is typically gas for the furnace and electricity to power the AC system. Some homes use electricity all year round, and others may switch to oil tanks as the weather turns colder. But, every HVAC equipped home needs a ductwork system to circulate the treated air throughout the home. All the air in the home moves through the air filter multiple times per day. The filters trap airborne particulates that can cause damage to sensitive components. As an added bonus, the air filter will remove pollutants that lower the indoor air quality (IAQ). In this article, we will look at four different types of furnace filters to help you make informed choices.

1.  Pleated Filters

This furnace filter has a larger surface area relevant to its size thanks to some clever folding. As the name suggests, you can see the pleats like the folds you might see on a squeezebox. These filters can be made from a variety of materials, including paper, polyester, or cotton. The pleated filters don’t contract or expand, and yet the increased surface area and material selections make this an effective filter choice for homes and businesses. A pleated filter usually has a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of 8-13, and this is the highest rating for superior residential use. These are disposable filters that need to be replaced every 1-3 months, depending on the usage and whether you have pets living in your home.

2.  Fiberglass Filters

We tend to think of fiberglass as a material used for solid constructions and household insulation products. But, fiberglass filters are an affordable material when compared to traditional polyester alternatives. These are disposable air filters that have lower MERV ratings at around 7, and they don’t tend to catch many particulates. Certain small particles will pass through a fiberglass filter, and they only have a 30-day lifespan. Although fiberglass filters have a lower upfront purchase cost, they don’t last as long, and this makes them a poor choice.

3.  Washable Filters

Many air filters on the market are disposable units which have a projected lifespan of 30-90 days, depending on the make, model, and material used in their construction. But, if you’re an environmentally conscious consumer and you don’t mind paying more, there are other options. Although they are expensive, there are washable furnace filter models that can last for up to ten years if they are carefully washed and dried. This may seem like the preface solution, but there are some drawbacks to consider before you go ahead with a purchase.

First, these filters tend to have lower MERV ratings of 4, which is much lower, even fiberglass disposal filters. To put this into perspective, these filters will capture pollen and dust mites, but mold spores, hair sprays, cooking byproducts, and other contaminants will pass right through. So, if you’re concerned about allergies or common irritants, a washable filter is not a good option. A second concern is that washable filters must be cleaned and dried very carefully to prevent damage. If the filter is damp when it’s placed back in the filter housing, it can be an ideal breeding ground for mold colonies. If you’re prepared to spend more time cleaning the filter and you’re not concerned about higher MERV ratings, these can be a good option.

4.  HEPA Filters

One of the best furnace filter options is the HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. Although a HEPA filter may be a component in an air purification system, it can be a standalone unit too. They can clean the air to a higher standard than the other filter types covered in this article. Some models even have a built-in UV light purifier to disrupt the DNA of harmful microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, pathogens, and more. Other models may have GAC (Granular Activated Carbon) layers that further boost their filtering efficacy. It’s true to say that HEPA filters are probably overkill for many homes and businesses. But, if you have people living in the building that suffer from allergies or pre-existing breathing conditions, it’s a good option. The downside of HEPA filters is that they are more expensive, and some HVAC systems cannot accommodate them.

Which is the Best Furnace Filter?

This is not an easy question to answer because there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and every home will have different needs and HVAC systems to consider. When you’re choosing an air filter, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the choices on offer online or at your local home improvement store. That said, it’s easy to see that there are clear differences between the broad categories of filters shown here. An examination of each general type of furnace filter can help you to narrow your choices. As an example: If you live in a home where nobody has allergies, and you’re on a tight budget, you may be fine with the fiberglass or even pleated filters if you want to spend a little more. But, it’s important to understand that a HEPA furnace filter is not a substitute for a dedicated air purification system. But, HEPA furnace filters do have superior air filtration capabilities when they are compared to pleated, fiberglass, or washable filters.

In Conclusion

When you’re in the market for a new furnace filter, it’s important to read the owner’s manual for your equipment carefully. Although they are similar, many HVAC systems have different filter housing to accommodate various filter sizes and models. The filter designation is printed on the rim, and it should match the requirements of your system. When you purchase any filter other than a washable model, it’s probably a good idea to buy them in bulk. This will help you to save money on the filters, and it will ensure that you have a spare one on hand when you need it.

If you want to upgrade your HVAC system, add an air purifier, or schedule some essential maintenance, contact your local heating and cooling specialist.