Filters serve two important purposes in your home: One, they help keep your air conditioner clean, allowing it to run free of dust, dirt, and other debris that can negatively impact operating efficiency. And two, they help keep those same particles from polluting the air throughout the house. Despite their importance, filters are often overlooked—even though they can be an important tool in the fight against indoor air pollution. Here’s an overview of everything you need to know about filters, and how to determine which type you should use in your home.
Before you can narrow down the type of filter you want to use in your home, you should start by ensuring you select one with a powerful enough MERV rating to fit your needs. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value. The MERV rating scale ranges from 1 to 20 and tells you how effective different air filters are at removing certain kinds of airborne particles. Each level of MERV rating builds on the previous one, and a higher MERV rating indicates greater filtering capabilities.
MERV 1-4: Removes dust mites, pollen, dust, textile and carpet fibers
MERV 5-8: Removes pet dander, dusting sprays, mold spores, and pet dander
MERV 9-12: Removes lead dust, flour, and auto emissions
MERV 13-16: Removes cooking oil, smoke, bacteria, and sneeze droplets
MERV 16-20: Removes viruses and all forms of smoke
Any filter with a MERV rating of 16 or higher is categorized as a High Efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA, filter. These filters provide the highest level of protection from airborne contaminants, and are commonly used in hospitals, airplanes, schools, and other places where controlling the spread of airborne disease is important. Many allergy sufferers notice significant improvement from using a HEPA filter.
Even though all A/C units use filters, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to buying one. Each filter has its own benefits, drawbacks, and ideal environment. What’s right for some homes may not be right for yours, which is why it’s important to do your research before making a purchase. For example, some filters, such as HEPA filters, may restrict airflow in older units. When in doubt, the experts at Chas Roberts can point you in the direction of the best filter solutions for your home.
The most common types of filters include:
Fiberglass filters are the most common type of filter. These filters are comprised of layered fiberglass fibers arranged to form the filter itself, as well as metal grating to support the fiberglass and prevent the filter from losing its shape.
While fiberglass filters are disposable, inexpensive, and generally effective, they lack the higher MERV rating of more high-tech filters. For trapping common household dust, fiberglass filters are more than enough. However, if you or someone in your home has respiratory problems, it’s best to look for a more powerful filter.
Pleated filters are made of polyester or cotton. Dense pleats allow these filters to trap more dust, dander, and pollutants than standard fiberglass frames. The tradeoff that comes with pleated filters is air quality vs efficiency. Since the filters are so dense, your system will have to work harder to pull air through the unit. This results in a loss of energy efficiency and a possible increase in your monthly energy bills. However, this tradeoff may be worth it if improving indoor air quality is your main priority.
With the help of cotton or paper fibers, electrostatic filters generate a static charge when in use. This charge acts as a magnet that attracts small airborne particles and stops them from circulating in your home. Because even the smallest airborne particles can’t escape the electric charge, electrostatic filters are a great choice for allergen removal.
HEPA filters are the strongest filters commercially available. They’re effective in trapping up to 99.97% of contaminants, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. For the cleanest and healthiest possible air, there’s no better option than HEPA Filters. However, HEPA filters can drastically reduce your system’s airflow, which can result in higher energy bills.
Many filters advertise themselves as “HEPA-like” or “HEPA-type”. This is because, legally, they cannot be categorized as actual HEPA filters as they do not fulfil the requirement of trapping up to 99.97% of airborne particles. To make sure you’re getting a legitimate HEPA filter, look for filters labeled as “true” or “absolute”. While they’re more expensive, it’s the only way to ensure you get true HEPA performance.
If you want the air purification benefits of a HEPA filter without compromising the energy efficiency of your HVAC system, consider purchasing a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. The HEPA filters in vacuum cleaners are just as effective as the ones made for HVAC systems. In other words, they’re another great way to effectively remove pet dander, dust, dirt, and other allergens from the surfaces and fabrics in your home.
The best (and easiest) thing you can do to help your air conditioner stay efficient is to replace your filters every month. In fact, replacing a dirty filter with a clean one can lower the system’s energy consumption by anywhere from 5 to 15%.
You’ll find your filters located in the walls, on the ceiling, or in the air conditioner itself. Most often, the return vent that houses the filter will be located near your thermostat. The replacement process is simple. Start by ensuring you have a new filter ready, and that it’s the same size as the existing one. This is important, because a filter that’s too big won’t fit, and a filter that’s too small will let debris enter the air. You can look at the side of your existing filter to find its size—common sizes include 10 X 20, 14 X 20, and 16 X 24.
Next, loosen the latches or fasteners in order to remove the cover on the return vent. Set it aside and remove the existing filter. Then, insert the new filter. Most filters have arrows on the side to help you know which way to insert them. Finally, close and secure the return vent’s cover and get ready to enjoy cleaner air.
Filters do a lot to positively impact indoor air quality, but there’s more you can do if fresh and clean air is your top priority.
Whether you have more questions about filters or any other topics in the world of HVAC, we’re here to help. As experts in creating comfortable home environments, we go the extra mile to ensure the air in your home is clean and safe. Contact us to get started.