What Type of Air Filter is Best for Your Home?

No, not all house air filters are the same. HVAC air filters vary in quality, dimensions, and features. It is recommended to use the filter that your HVAC manufacturer recommends matching with your system. All filters are assigned MERV ratings, ranging from 1 to 20.

Any filter three inches or thicker is designed to be a whole-house filter. The most common thicknesses are four and five inches, while three and six inch varieties exist. They feature the same construction as common one-inch pleated filters with a distinction. Whole house filters offer significantly larger surface area than one-inch filters due to their deep V-folds that fill their nearly half-foot thick frame.

Your oven and air conditioning system use the exact same filter, so there's no need to worry about buying separate filters for each piece of equipment. The pleats of these filters give them an advantage over creaseless options because they increase the filter surface area for better filtering. Whole house filters and portable filters trap dust, pollen and more to clean the air and improve indoor air quality. Some HVAC systems aren't strong enough to push air through more restrictive filters that block smaller particles, that is, those with a higher MERV or CADR rating, which can reduce airflow and cause your home to heat and cool less efficiently.

Some manufacturers are addressing the noise problem with so-called intelligent filters that employ an optical sensor to assess if the air is relatively clean and then switch to a lower fan configuration. In older homes, especially in the northern states and parts of the U. S., many homes don't have a central heating and air conditioning system, but instead have individual wall-mounted air conditioning units (or don't have air conditioning at all) and a separate oven. Typically, air filters are integrated into the heating and cooling system (whole-house filters) or are stand-alone units that can be placed in individual rooms (portable filters with autonomous fans).

But when it comes time to replace it, does it really matter what type of filter you choose? Aren't all filters basically the same? In most cases, the central air system uses 2 separate filters to properly filter unwanted particles, allergens, bacteria and more. While you should refer to the instructions for your HVAC system and your specific filter for maintenance guidelines, you should generally change filters at least every season, if not once a month. Some air filters are hybrids that combine both methods, and some include activated carbon elements to combat odor. You've probably heard how important it is to change your home's air filter on a regular basis.

In fact, there are many different types of air filters available and choosing the right one can make a real difference to the lifespan of your HVAC system. One type that can be particularly difficult to find at the local store is the whole house air filter. It's important to note that because the filtration process is the same between air and oven filters, some homes use a single filtration system or type of air filter for hot and cold air. Filters with more pleats will provide better filtration than those with fewer folds, trapping even the toughest allergens and contaminants, such as pet dander and mold spores.

Janice Kampman
Janice Kampman

Subtly charming musicaholic. Zombie evangelist. Incurable travel lover. Devoted beer enthusiast. Passionate zombie specialist.

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