Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters are different in quality and measurements, and some have specifications that others don't. In most instances we advise installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer recommends pairing with your unit.

All filters are assigned MERV ratings, which range from 1–20. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A larger value indicates the filter can trap more miniscule substances. This sounds good, but a filter that stops finer dust can become obstructed faster, increasing pressure on your system. If your equipment isn’t made to run with this type of filter, it could decrease airflow and cause other issues.

Unless you are in a hospital, you likely don’t have to have a MERV ranking greater than 13. In fact, many residential HVAC systems are specifically made to operate with a filter with a MERV level below 13. Sometimes you will discover that good systems have been designed to operate with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV ranking of 5 should catch many daily annoyance, like pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to stop mold spores, but we suggest having a professional eliminate mold instead of trying to conceal the problem with a filter.

Usually the packaging indicates how frequently your filter should be exchanged. In our experience, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the extra price.

Filters are manufactured from varying materials, with disposable fiberglass filters being most typical. Polyester and pleated filters grab more debris but may limit your system’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you might tempted to use a HEPA filter, remember that's like putting a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling system. It’s very doubtful your system was created to handle that level of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in Albany, think about getting a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works along with your comfort system.