Does Air Filters Matter? A Comprehensive Guide

The short answer is, yes, they do. Different types of air filters can make a real difference to the lifespan of your HVAC system and the air quality inside your home. Not all filters are built the same way, so choosing the right filter depends on what you need to purify from the air and the cost of filters. It's wise to talk to an HVAC professional before making any decisions about air filters.

To help gather information and weigh your options, let's take a look at each type of filter and its features to narrow down the types that may be right for your home. In its most basic function, an air filter removes impurities such as dust, pet dander, or even bacteria from the air that flows through the system. Not only does this improve the air quality inside your home, but it also protects your HVAC system from potential damage. Most disposable filters for home air conditioning systems are fiberglass. Polyester filters, although more expensive, offer improved ability to stop dust and allergens.

Pleated designs tend to have higher MERV ratings. Air filters remove particles of different sizes from the air before the air flows through the blower to the rest of the house. Not only do filters remove dust allergens, mold spores, and other pollutants from the air your family breathes, but they also filter out fine dirt particles that can degrade the performance of the HVAC system itself. Washable electrostatic filters are metal frame filters that are designed to be washed and reused rather than replaced. That's why it's important to change the air filter throughout the year, since both the heating and cooling units take advantage of that air filter. Some people need HVAC system filters that keep the air free of allergens and other contaminants, while others just need a basic filter to get the job done.

Usually, all you have to do is take out the old filter and write down the dimensions that are labeled on the edge of the filter. Poorly adjusted air or oven filters can allow contaminants to enter your home, reduce the efficiency of your system, and increase electricity bills. Formerly made of cotton, today's pleated filters are made of synthetic polymers that allow efficient filtration and minimize impact on airflow. While you should refer to the instructions for your HVAC system and your specific filter for maintenance guidelines, you should generally change filters at least every season, if not once a month. Pleated filters work to capture an extremely high percentage of large particles and a much larger number of small particles than competing filter types.

Knowing what type of air filter to buy is good, but useless information if you have no idea where the air filter goes in the first place. Household HVAC air filters are rated based on their MERV rating, with most household filters between 1 and 13 (more than 13 are for HEPA filters). For this reason, these filters are not recommended for people who have respiratory problems and need a filter that improves indoor air quality. In general, high-efficiency filters that are also cost-effective are best for homes, but other considerations should include whether there are pets in the house, if mold is a threat, and how often filters need to be changed. Most importantly, not all filters are manufactured equal: the quality of the filter materials determines the life of the product and the consistency of its performance. It is important to never force the fit of a filter that is too large or allow air to flow around a filter that is too small, as either can reduce efficiency.

Willis Diruzzo
Willis Diruzzo

Typical sushi enthusiast. Infuriatingly humble music geek. Typical internetaholic. Subtly charming social media maven. Lifelong bacon buff.