What's the Difference Between Air Filter Brands?

The short answer is, no, they are not all the same. 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. Often referred to as OEM filters or original equipment manufacturers, they are produced by the brand name company. There are also many aftermarket or discounted home air filters available for purchase. So what's the difference? To tell you the truth, the biggest difference you'll see is the cost of HVAC filters.

OEM filters are often much more expensive because you pay for one brand. When comparing the material from which each air filter is made, they will look and feel identical. The only difference you can occasionally see is if the OEM filter material is limited or has a patented design. The other difference you may notice is simply the brand and name of the oven filter. That's important because the concentration of air pollutants inside your home can be two to five times higher than concentrations normally found outdoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

We measure how well an air filter removes dust, pollen, and smoke from the air, and see how freely air flows through the filter at any fan speed. We also estimate annual costs for replacement filters, based on the manufacturer's recommendation for when to change them. Keep in mind that prices may vary by retailer and that it may be cheaper if you buy filters in bulk. Available in more than a dozen sizes, the Filtrete AC oven air filter is presented as our best overall oven replacement filter. Its high-efficiency MERV-12 rating makes it an excellent choice for homeowners who want to trap as much debris as possible in the air.

Media filters are very easy to maintain and ideal for filtering bacteria and other small airborne contaminants. Filtered dirt seals in the filter, preventing it from being ejected back into your home. Media filters are also robust and cost-effective, so they need to be changed as infrequently as once or twice a year. No, HVAC air filters differ in quality and dimensions, and some have features that others don't. In most cases, we recommend using the filter that your HVAC manufacturer recommends matching with your system.

Different brands will offer different ranges of MERV ratings and filter sizes. Most importantly, not all filters are manufactured equal: the quality of the filter materials determines the life of the product and the consistency of its performance. Finally, you want to buy from companies that maximize customer benefits through fast shipping and strong customer service. Air filters can be easily ordered by the number printed on an existing product, or you can measure the actual size of the opening where the filter is installed to determine the nominal filter size you need. Many oven filters need to be changed every 2-3 months, so many options come with 4-6 filters per purchase. If the dimensions are not printed on the filter, you can measure it and find the actual dimensions by following these simple instructions. If it is, there are several examples of qualified filters that we would recommend, including the Nordic Pure MERV 12, a perfectly good filter that we would look for first (because it often costs less), as well as two other filters that are also OK.

The right HVAC filters can make the difference between clogged air full of contaminants and clean air that is healthy and easy to breathe. But those are rare circumstances, and the decision to pay more for a better filter or not depends mainly on whether cleaner air is a priority for you. Filtrete uses exclusive 3-in-1 technology to trap lint, dust, pet dander, soot, pollen and mold spores, while encouraging fresh air to flow through the filter. The Filtrete Healthy Living Ultimate Allergen filter has a MERV rating of 13, placing it in a class of filters designed to capture particles as small as 0.30 to 1 micron in size. But it can have a big impact on even small things, and finding the right oven filter can save money and improve air quality. We research the best oven filters on the market, evaluating the filter type, the MERV rating and the overall value. While many 1-inch filters need to be replaced approximately every 90 days, a 4-inch oven filter, such as the Honeywell Home Pleated Air Filter, lasts up to a year.

While these filters have a low MERV rating, they are a great long-term investment for someone who doesn't have strong preferences about HVAC filter types and doesn't need any special filters. In actual use, with the air in your home constantly recirculating through the ducts and passing through the filters each time, the cumulative effect of the filters increases. In general, high-efficiency filters that are also cost-effective are best for homes, but other considerations should include whether there are pets in the house, if mold or mildew is a threat, and how often filters should be changed.

Janice Kampman
Janice Kampman

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

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