Types of HVAC Air Filters

An air conditioner’s filters, coils and fins require regular maintenance for the unit to function effectively and efficiently throughout its years of service. Neglecting necessary maintenance ensures a steady decline in air conditioning performance while energy use steadily increases. One of the easiest ways to prolong the life of your unit and improve indoor air quality and allergies is to maintain clean air filters, but many wonder how to choose the correct filter.

Not all filters are built the same, so choosing the right filter depends on what you need to purify from the air. You will also want to consider factors like the cost of the filters. It is wise to speak to an Aire-Tech professional before making any decisions about air filters. To help gather information and weigh your options, you can compare the basic pros and cons of each filter type.

Let’s take a look at each filter type and its characteristics to narrow down the types that may be a good fit for your home.


The Function of Air Filters

An air filter’s basic function is to clean the air that circulates through your heating and cooling system. Filtration usually occurs when expended air is brought back into the HVAC equipment to be conditioned and distributed again. The air is forced through the filter, and the material removes particulates and other contaminants from the air.

Filters trap and hold many types of particulates and contaminants that could affect your health and comfort, including:

  • Dust and dirt
  • Pollen
  • Mold and mold spores
  • Fibers and lint
  • Metal, plaster or wood particles
  • Hair and animal fur
  • Bacteria and microorganisms


What Are The Different Types Of HVAC Air Filters?

While there are many types of air filters you can buy for your home, fiberglass and pleated are the most common residential filters. Both fiberglass and pleated air filters serve its purpose and provide many benefits for your home, but differ in a variety of ways.

  • Fiberglass Air Filters

Fiberglass air filters are disposable and the least expensive type of filter. They do cause less strain on HVAC systems when drawing in air and keep large particles out of your system. However, they do not do such a great job of keeping out dust and other smaller contaminant particles. If you or members of your family suffer from allergies or have respiratory problems, this type of filter may not be powerful enough to help relieve or prevent respiratory problems. It will typically have a MERV 4 rating.

  • Pleated filters

Polyester fabrics or cotton folds are two HVAC filter materials used in pleated filters. Pleated filters have a MERV rating between 5 and 13. While they can effectively filter dust and other airborne pollutants, they provide low air filtration and are less resistant to airflow.

The pleats in these filters give them an advantage over non-pleated options because they increase the filter’s surface area for better filtering. Filters with more pleats will provide better filtering than those with fewer pleats, trapping even difficult allergens and pollutants. You would need to get these changed out every 3-6 months.

  • Washable Air Filters

While certain types of air filters come with reusable and disposable options, washable filters are an environmentally friendly way to save money. The initial price of this air filter type for HVAC systems is high, but it should be viewed as an investment that will last for many years.

While these filters have a low MERV rating, they are a great long-term investment for someone who doesn not have strong preferences about HVAC filter types and does not need any specialty filters.

  • Electrostatic Air Filters

Using small cotton and paper fibers, electrostatic filters create static that acts as a magnet for dust and other airborne particles. The magnetism is strong enough that it keeps these particles from spreading throughout your home, making them one of the best choices for those who need a filter that can combat allergens.

An added bonus for electrostatic filters is they are available as disposable as well as reusable. When it comes time to change the filters, you can decide whether to wash and reuse them or toss them and get brand new ones.

  • HEPA Filters

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are recommended by the U.S. Department of Health because they are able to remove at least 99.97% of airborne allergens and pollutants — including mold spores and dust that are as small as 0.3 microns. With a MERV rating nearing 16, HEPA filters provide the highest protection for your home. They’re able to remove even the smallest microns or airborne particles, including tobacco and bacteria.

Those who live with allergies or other respiratory issues may benefit from HEPA filters the most. These filters do need to be adjusted by a contractor to fit your specific HVAC system.

  • UV Filters

This type of filters uses ultraviolet lights to kill bacteria and viruses in your home. Although less efficient in screening dust and other pollutants, they are good at combatting microorganisms which are also dangerous to your health.


MERV Ratings and Filter Efficiency

The MERV rating scale shows the efficiency of a filter. That is, the percentage of particles removed based on the size of the particle.

Many air purifiers use a foam pre-filter and those fall in the MERV 1-4 range and are the lowest performing filters. A higher performance pre-filter will further improve the quality of the air. We recommend a MERV 6 to MERV 8 rated pre-filter to balance the filtration capabilities with less airflow resistance. Every air purifier offered from Oransi has a MERV Rating of 16-17.

  • MERV 1-4: These are common standard filters that provide a basic level of filtration at low cost.
  • MERV 6-8: These filters provide good filtration and are commonly used in residential settings. They are often made of pleated cloth or paper to provide more surfaces for capturing particles.
  • MERV 9-12: Mid-range filters like these are of relatively high quality and can capture very small particles of 1 micron or larger.
  • MERV 13-16: These high-efficiency filters are the best standard filters available. They can remove very small particulates of 0.3 microns or larger.


Air Filter Maintenance

Whether you are trying to improve the air quality in your home for health reasons, or you want to cut down on energy and maintenance costs in your home, regularly cleaning or replacing your HVAC filter is a cheap and easy step in your home maintenance routine.

Air filters should be checked every month and changed or cleaned when they get dirty. A visual inspection should show you whether the filters are dirty or clogged. Hold the filter up to a light source; if you cannot see the light through the filter, it should be changed.

To clean your HVAC filter, first turn off your heating or air conditioner. Locate your HVAC unit’s service panel, and open it to find the filter. Clean the filter with running water, such as your sink or garden hose. Allow your HVAC filter to air dry completely before reinserting!


Benefits Of Changing Your HVAC Air Filters

Air filters are one of the most important parts of your HVAC system and can determine a variety of aspects. The status of your air filters can determine airflow, air quality, efficiency, comfort, and many more factors of your home. When air filters are dirty or clogged, air struggles to push its way through. This means your air conditioning or heating system uses more energy and works harder to push air through the filter pores.

Maintaining clean air filters can benefit your home in many ways, such as:

  1. Improve Home Air Quality

The air inside our homes is filled with dirt and dust tracked in from outside, pet dander, or even smoke from indoor smoking. Air filters act like a “shield” by trapping these particles so you can breathe easier. The air filter is designed with fibers, usually fiberglass, that trap the unwanted elements in your home’s air. These can include pollen, dust, dirt, mold spores, animal fur, microorganisms, bacteria, etc.


  1. Improve Energy Efficiency

Not only do clean air filters improve your home’s air quality, but they also increase energy efficiency. Clogged and dirty air filters require your HVAC system to work harder to push air through your system. It is estimated that HVAC systems with clean filters can be 5-15% more efficient than systems with dirty filters.


  1. Extend the Life of Your HVAC Unit

When your air filters are worn or dirty, your system has to work harder to push air through. This means that your system is expending more effort than necessary. Also, if the dirt and grime have no room to get trapped in a full air filter, it can clog up your HVAC system components. Take care of your system to extend the life of your unit.


  1. Lower Repair Frequency

Preventing unnecessary damage is another reason why you should change your air filter often. Maintenance is typically always cheaper than fixing a broken system. And it always seems like your unit goes on the fritz during weather extremes when you need it the most.


  1. Better Temperature Control

Since air cannot pass through dirty filters as effectively, it is harder for the HVAC to cool or heat your home. Changing the filters makes it easier for the cooling system to control the temperature in your home, which makes you more comfortable and helps keep your HVAC efficient.


Final Thoughts

As the weather begins to warm up and winter starts to die away, it is important to take a few preventative measures to protect your home through the warmer months when windows start to open and birds begin to sing. Air conditioner tune-ups can seem like a frivolous thing to have done for someone who is unaware of their benefits and the importance. But the truth is, you will be stopping problems before they get out of hand. And while it may seem like you’re paying extra money for the tune-up, you’re actually saving on repairs, replacements, and energy costs by having it done.

If your system needs repair or inspection before winter, call Aire-Tech on 951-926-1002. You can also visit our Contact page and complete the contact form.