Just go to any home improvement store and the choice of home air filters can be dizzying. Which brand is best? Should you just get the cheapest? These are just a couple of the questions that make selecting home air filters so mind-boggling. Let Roland J. Down Service Experts try to help you de-mystify the air filter dilemma.
Here’s a simple way to tell how efficient your existing filter is (NOTE: Do this outdoors or with something below the filter so you don’t end up with a mess): Hold the filter horizontally, then taking standard table salt, begin to pour the salt through the filter to see how much comes out the other side. If some or all the salt falls through the filter, then you can imagine that the filter will let dust that same size flow through. You really should upgrade your filter to an air filter that’s more efficient.
Size, MERV rating and material – these are the three primary factors used to pick the proper air filter for your home.
1) Filter Size
Size is the easiest factor to ascertain. Simply look at the label of your existing filter to see the dimensions, or just measure it yourself. Typically home air filters are 1” thick, but there are a variety of standard width and height dimensions, and some systems have thicker filters.
2) Material & MERV Rating
The efficiencies of filters are rated on a scale of 16, known as MERV ratings. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This number identifies for the user, under the least efficient conditions, how well the filter is designed to hold contaminants.
To explain MERV ratings more impactfully, these are some usual MERV ratings and how they correspond to efficiencies. This is only a guide, so be sure to read the filter manufacturers’ information when shopping for specific filters.
Rating Average Filtration Efficiency
MERV 1-4 60-80%
Fiberglass, Disposable Panel, Washable metal/synthetic, self-charging (Passive)
MERV 5-8 80-95%
Pleated, Media panel, Cube
MERV 9-12 >95%
MERV 13-16 >98%
Be Careful About High MERV Ratings
While a higher MERV number may provide better filtration efficiency, it is extremely important to understand that too high a MERV filter may also take more to operate your HVAC system. The higher the MERV, the more restricted the air may flow through the system, and the harder the system may need to work. Your goal is to get the right balance between air flow, air filtration level and energy efficiency.
Think about it this way, the most efficient ‘filter’ would equivalent to a piece of plywood that prevents ALL contaminants and all the air from coming inside your Albany home. That's all-out air filtration, but would also be like living in a box.
Your best bet for most systems would be a MERV 6-8. A higher MERV filter should be used based upon the advice of your Roland J. Down Service Experts technician to confirm your system has the capability of moving the suitable amount of air through higher efficiency filters. You generally do not want to lose energy-efficiency for filter efficiency; you want a balance of the two. However, if your family deals with allergies or respiratory problems and a high MERV rated filter is required, consider a whole-home air filtration solution that will meet your energy and filter efficiency needs.
Filtration has changed greatly over the past ten years. In the beginning, home air filters were used in the furnace or air handler only to protect the comfort equipment itself. Today it’s a whole new ballgame. Albany area homeowners expect their air filter to save children from a whole host of harmful pollutants, dust mites, and even prevent the need for dusting. Dare to dream!