Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters differ in quality and dimensions, and some have specifications that others don't. In most situations we suggest using the filter your HVAC manufacturer recommends pairing with your equipment.

All filters have MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A larger rating demonstrates the filter can grab more miniscule particulates. This sounds good, but a filter that traps finer substances can become obstructed more quickly, raising pressure on your equipment. If your unit isn’t created to work with this kind of filter, it can reduce airflow and create other troubles.

Unless you reside in a medical facility, you more than likely don’t need a MERV level greater than 13. In fact, many residential HVAC equipment is specifically made to operate with a filter with a MERV rating below 13. Occasionally you will find that decent systems have been made to work with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV rating of 5 should get the majority of the common triggers, such as pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters say they can trap mold spores, but we recommend having a professional eliminate mold as opposed to trying to mask the trouble with a filter.

Often the packaging demonstrates how often your filter should be replaced. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters hold up better, and are worth the additional cost.

Filters are manufactured from different materials, with single-use fiberglass filters being most typical. Polyester and pleated filters grab more dust but may limit your equipment’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you might be interested in using a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like installing a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling equipment. It’s extremely doubtful your equipment was designed to work with kind of resistance. If you’re concerned about indoor air quality in Albany, think about getting a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This unit works in tandem with your HVAC system.