Which Kind of Home Air Filters Should I Buy?

Oct 20, 2021

Having the right home air filter for your heating and cooling system is essential when you want to protect your home’s air quality and reduce the need for HVAC maintenance or repairs. Since filters are designed to stop contaminants from entering your system and can impact your HVAC system’s efficiency, you’ll probably want to pick the best one possible. Find out more about the main factors you’ll want to consider when purchasing home air filters to help you make the right choice.

What Are Home Air Filters?

Sometimes called furnace filters, home air filters are designed to ensure your HVAC system’s heat exchanges and coils stay clean. They also block contaminants from entering your HVAC system and keep your home’s air quality at optimal levels. Usually, these air filters have a cardboard frame containing pleated cloth or fiberglass materials, with the cloth or fiberglass catching contaminants before they enter your system.

Since dirty heat exchanges and coils can impact your system’s effectiveness and cause it to work harder, air filters are essential to preventing HVAC damage. By choosing the correct air filters and replacing them as needed, you can extend your HVAC unit’s life.

Besides improving your HVAC unit’s life, the right air filters can also improve the quality of the air you breathe inside your home. Since many air filters can trap contaminants like mold spores, pollen, dust, smoke, bacteria, pet dander, and dust mites, they’re essential to ensuring your home has clean air.

How to Pick the Right Air Filter for My Home?

Similar to the importance of understanding when you should change your air filter, it’s crucial to know how to pick the right filter for your home. Since a great air filter will protect your system and your home’s air quality, it’s critical you know the main considerations that go into selecting the best air filter possible. As you look for the right air filter for your home, you’ll want to pay attention to the filter’s type, size, and MERV rating.

Learn more about the following top factors to consider when choosing an HVAC filter:

1. 4 Types of Air Filters

One of the first considerations you should keep in mind before you pick a home air filter is its type. Generally, the four main types of residential home air filters include disposable pleated, disposable fiberglass, disposable electrostatic, and washable electrostatic. Find out more about the differences between these filters below:

  • Disposable pleated: Some of the most commonly recommended home air filters on the market are disposable pleated filters. These filters capture both small and large particles, making them an effective filtration option. Since they’re disposable, these filters must be disposed of and replaced when they get too dirty. Compared to fiberglass filters, disposable pleated filters typically cost a few more dollars, but they tend to be much more effective.
  • Disposable fiberglass: While disposable fiberglass filters are often the least expensive filters on the market, they’re also the most ineffective. These filters can only collect large particles like dust, lint, and debris, letting many small particles enter an HVAC system. Like disposable pleated filters, you’ll have to replace these filters with new ones every time they get too dirty.
  • Disposable electrostatic filters: Disposable electrostatic filters feature electrically charged fibers designed to capture smaller filters. While these filters excel at trapping smaller particles, they can also catch larger ones. Though they can capture larger particles, electrostatic filters tend to allow some larger particles through due to their reliance on an electrical charge. These filters also have to be disposed of once they get too dirty.
  • Washable electrostatic filters: Homeowners who want reusable filters often choose washable electrostatic filters. These filters can be washed, and they usually last between six to eight years. Since these filters are reusable, they tend to cost more than disposable filters. Like disposable electrostatic filters, they excel at capturing small particles but will sometimes allow larger particles through.

2. Air Filter Size Guide

Alongside choosing the right type of filter for your needs, it’s also important to select a filter in the correct size. Before you purchase a filter, take a moment to check the size of the existing filter in your system to see what dimensions you should look for in a new filter. While you can find several different sizes of filters on the market, the most common are those in the 16-by-20-inch, 16-by-25-inch, and 20-by-25-inch variety.

Besides purchasing a filter with the right dimensions, you’ll want to look for filters with the correct thickness. Generally, home air filters come in thicknesses ranging from one to five inches. A thicker filter will block more particles, but it may also reduce an HVAC’s systems efficiency and lifespan due to the HVAC unit having to work harder to pull air through the filter. Before you choose a filter, check your HVAC system’s operating manual to see how thick of a filter it can safely handle.

3. Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value

Home air filters receive a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), with this value referring to their density. MERV ratings for filters range from 1 to 20, but filters for residential use typically only come with MERV ratings between 1 and 12. Typically, MERV filters with ratings higher than 12 will be used for heavy-duty commercial applications instead of less taxing residential ones.

Since higher MERV ratings will signal the home air filter is denser, filters with higher ratings will capture more particles. Though filters with higher ratings are more effective, they tend to need replacement more often as they clog faster than those with lower ratings.

Generally, it’s best practice to purchase a filter with a rating of six MERV or higher, as filters with ratings below six will tend to allow too many contaminants into your system. Since filters featuring higher ratings can make it more difficult for your system to pull air through, it’s also important to check your HVAC system’s operating manual for the maximum MERV rating it can handle before you purchase a filter.

Choose Newcomb and Company for Your HVAC Maintenance and Repair Needs in Raleigh

Picking the right filter for your HVAC system is only one aspect of protecting it. At Newcomb and Company, we can help you select the right filter, give you advice on when to change your filters, and perform needed HVAC maintenance to keep your HVAC system running efficiently all year long. Alongside providing AC and heater maintenance, we can also repair or replace your system if it ends up needing more extensive work.

If you’re in Raleigh, Wilmington, or the surrounding areas, please contact us to schedule a service or receive a free estimate.

Need help? Call now.