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 instances we recommend installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer suggests pairing with your equipment.

All filters are classified with MERV ratings, which go from 1–20. MERV means minimum efficiency reporting value.

A larger ranking demonstrates the filter can grab smaller particulates. This sounds outstanding, but a filter that catches finer dirt can become obstructed more rapidly, heightening pressure on your system. If your system isn’t made to work with this type of filter, it could lower airflow and cause other troubles.

Unless you are in a hospital, you probably don’t have to have a MERV rating above 13. In fact, most residential HVAC equipment is specifically made to operate with a filter with a MERV level below 13. Occasionally you will discover that good systems have been made to run with a MERV ranking of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV ranking of 5 should get many everyday triggers, like pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters say they can trap mold spores, but we suggest having a professional eliminate mold instead of trying to mask the issue with a filter.

Sometimes the packaging indicates how frequently your filter should be changed. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the added price.

Filters are made from varying materials, with single-use fiberglass filters being most typical. Polyester and pleated filters catch more dirt but may limit your equipment’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you might be interested in using a HEPA filter, remember that's like putting a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling unit. It’s extremely unrealistic your system was made to work with level of resistance. If you’re concerned about indoor air quality in Orlando, think over getting a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works in tandem with your comfort system.