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Home Air Filters: What Are Your Options?August 23rd, 2013 by
HVAC systems rely on air filters to remove dust and allergens from the air. If the filter isn’t changed regularly, the system will struggle to draw in air through the clogged screen, and a buildup of particles can also accumulate in the coils.
Both problems will compromise the energy efficiency of the system, resulting in poor temperature control, sluggish performance, and higher monthly energy bills.
But quality air filters can do more than just keep your system running at its best. Advanced filtration systems can remove everything from pollutants to bacteria to odors, creating measurable benefits for homeowners.
In fact, indoor air pollution ranks among the top five environmental health risks, according to the EPA. Having a quality air filter can protect both your HVAC system as well as household members who suffer from allergies, asthma, or sensitivity to dust and other particles.
Getting the Right Fit for Your Home
How can you tell what filter is right for your household’s needs? First, you’ll need to know which size and type of filter to buy. You can find this information by referring to your owner’s manual, talking with your HVAC professional, or checking the existing filter in your system.
Second, you’ll want to determine the level of filtration needed for your home. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) rates the effectiveness of air filters using a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV).
The higher the MERV rating, the more capable a filter is of trapping smaller particles. ASHRAE recommends buying an air filter with a minimum MERV rating of six.
There are three basic types of air filters, and the filtration capacity of each depends on its size and density.
Fiberglass. These inexpensive, disposable filters are best at removing large particles. Since the filtration capacity is typically lower, these need to be inspected—and often changed—on a monthly basis, particularly during the summer and winter months when HVAC systems are working overtime. Polyester filters are similar in quality to fiberglass filters, but have more tightly woven fabrics to better capture particles.*
Pleated. These disposable filters have a larger surface area and are designed to capture more particles and last longer than standard fiberglass filters.*
Reusable. The key advantage to reusable filters is that they only need to be replaced every few years, but it is essential to vacuum or wash them regularly, depending on the filter’s requirements. Keep in mind that cleaning a filter can expose you to the harmful particles that it trapped.*
*NOTE: This filter type is available in standard or electrostatic forms. Electrostatic filters boost performance with charged fibers that capture smaller particles. However, once the charged fibers are covered in particles of the opposite charge, the filter will lose its ability to collect smaller particles. It’s important to stay on top of the maintenance requirements for these filters by changing or cleaning them when needed.
Write the date on your filter before placing it in your system so that you’ll know when it’s time to replace it. ENERGY STAR recommends checking your air filter monthly. Follow product guidelines for changing your filter, understanding that it may need to be changed more frequently during high-use seasons, such as winter and summer.
Also, be sure to schedule routine inspections and maintenance checks on your HVAC system with a qualified professional.