Changing your A/C filter is something that needs to be done regularly to optimize ventilation in your HVAC system. Changing your filters regularly produce better air quality and provide a safety barrier for objects that could create a fire risk such as insulation. The average home needs to change their filter every 90 days. If there is a dog or cat in the home, your filter needs to be replaced every 60 days. If there are multiple animals or someone with allergies, your filter will need to be replaced every 20-45 days depending on the type of filter you use.
Filter Size & MERV Rating
Each HVAC system uses different sized filters depending on the size of the area that it is ventilating. When purchasing a new filter, make sure you get the correct size for your system. Don’t try to use a filter that is too small, because the entire area of the opening needs to be completely covered to catch the particles in the air.
Filters are rated using the MERV system. This is the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value and is rated on a scale from 1-16 with 16 being the highest. There are several types of filters that are MERV rated available for residential use.
Fiberglass Filters: Cheap but Short-Lived
Fiberglass filters are an inexpensive and easy to install. They are made of fiberglass that is layered to be able to trap particles from the air. The upside is that they are very inexpensive and are commonly able to be purchased in bulk. The downside is that they don’t trap particles very well. They only have a MERV rating of 1-4. They need to be changed every thirty days and are not recommended for use in households with pets or to trap allergen causing debris.
Pleated Air Filters: The Go-To
Pleated air filters are most commonly used in residential HVAC systems. These are the filters you are able to buy at your local grocery store. They are able to catch 45% of debris, have a MERV rating of 10-13, and are able to last up to 90 days. Pleated air filters capture more allergens and airborne particles than fiberglass filters. They are recommended to households with pets or allergies and are available in several variations.
Electrostatic Washable Filters: Reusable for Life
Electrostatic washable filters are an economic choice because they are permanent filters. They are made of metal or plastic and use electricity to attract particles. They are more expensive, but pay for themselves over time. They need to be washed off with water every month. These filters have various MERV ratings and rely on the buildup of particles to work at their highest efficiency. They are good for homes with pets and people with allergens, however they do not capture smoke particles.
HEPA Filters: Nothing Gets Through
HEPA filters capture the smallest particles and remove 97% of all matter and remove almost all allergens. These types of filters are more expensive than fiberglass filters, but less expensive than permanent filters. These types of filters are able to last up to six months. They aren’t usually found at the grocery store and would need to be special ordered or purchased at a hardware store. The downside of these filters is that they restrict airflow which may increase your energy bill.
There are several types of air filters available for different household sizes and needs. Before buying a filter for your home, decide what filter would be best. Pets will increase the amount of particles that will be captured by the filter due to their fur. People with allergies need a filter that is better suited for capturing the small particles that activate them. Getting the correct filter is an important step in having quality air in your household.