Are all HVAC air filters the same?

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

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

A larger value means the filter can grab smaller particles. This sounds good, but a filter that stops finer dirt can become blocked more rapidly, increasing pressure on your system. If your equipment isn’t made to function with this type of filter, it could decrease airflow and cause other issues.

Unless you reside in a hospital, you likely don’t have to have a MERV ranking higher than 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC systems are specifically made to run with a filter with a MERV level below 13. Occasionally you will learn that decent systems have been engineered to run with a MERV ranking of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should catch many common annoyance, like pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to stop mold spores, but we advise having a professional eliminate mold instead of trying to mask the trouble with a filter.

Sometimes the packaging indicates how frequently your filter should be changed. In our experience, the accordion-style filters last longer, and are worth the extra expense.

Filters are created from varying materials, with disposable fiberglass filters being standard. Polyester and pleated filters grab more debris but may decrease 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 comfort system. It’s very unrealistic your equipment was created to handle that level of resistance. If you’re worried about indoor air quality in Albany, think over getting a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works along with your heating and cooling system.