Choosing The Right Air Filter For Your North America Home

February 06, 2015

You’ve probably experienced the feeling of confusion when trying to select the correct home air filter for your needs. What’s the best one? Is the more expensive products worth the investment? These are just two of many of the questions that make purchasing air filters for your home mind-boggling. Let Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning crack the code of home air filters for you, so you can feel comfortable with your purchase.

Here’s a tried and true way to determine how efficient your old filter is (NOTE: Spare yourself a huge mess by conducting this experiment outside or with something below the filter to help keep things clear): Set the filter horizontally, then taking everyday table salt, begin to pour the salt through the filter then see the quantity that comes out the other side. If some or all the salt falls through the filter, then you know that the filter will let dust particles of similar size pass through. You should probably upgrade your filter to something 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 proper measurements, or just measure it yourself. Typically home air filters are 1” thick, but there are a numerous 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 help explain the scale of this system, these are some typical 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%
Extended pleated

MERV 13-16 >98%
Electronic

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 cost you more to operate your heating and air conditioning system. The higher the MERV, the less 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 actually be a piece of plywood that would just trap ALL contaminants and all the air from coming inside your North America home. That's all-out air filtration
, but would also be a terrible way to live.

The default choice for most systems would be a MERV 6-8. A higher MERV filter should be used based upon the advice of your Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning technician to confirm your system has the capability of moving the suitable volume of air through higher efficiency filters. You probably do not want to give up energy-efficiency for filter efficiency; you want a balance of the two. However, if your family deals with allergies or respiratory problems and needs a high MERV air filter, consider a
whole-home air filtration solution that will meet your energy and filter efficiency needs.

Filtration has changed greatly over the past few years. Initially, home air filters were used in the furnace or air handler only to protect the comfort equipment itself. The story is different today. North America area homeowners expect their air filter to save loved ones from a a growing list of harmful pollutants, dust mites, and even prevent the need for dusting. Dare to dream!