Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary in quality and size, and some have specs that others don't. In most instances we recommend using the filter your HVAC manufacturer recommends pairing with your system.

All filters are classified with MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV means minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher rating means the filter can catch smaller particles. This sounds great, but a filter that traps finer substances can clog more quickly, heightening pressure on your unit. If your system isn’t made to run with this model of filter, it can restrict airflow and cause other issues.

Unless you live in a hospital, you likely don’t require a MERV level higher than 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC units are specifically designed to run with a filter with a MERV ranking lower than 13. Sometimes you will learn that decent systems have been made to operate with a MERV ranking of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should get the majority of the daily nuisances, such as pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to catch mold spores, but we advise having a professional get rid of mold rather than trying to conceal the issue with a filter.

Sometimes the packaging demonstrates how often your filter should be changed. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the additional expense.

Filters are made from varying materials, with single-use fiberglass filters being most typical. Polyester and pleated filters trap more debris but may reduce your unit’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you may tempted to use a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like installing a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling unit. It’s very unrealistic your equipment was made to run with amount of resistance. If you’re worried about indoor air quality. This unit works along with your heating and cooling system.