Numerous complex parts make up residential heating and cooling equipment, but it’s the simple air filter that keeps the system running smoothly.

While relatively inexpensive, an HVAC filter has an outsized impact on indoor air quality as well as the energy efficiency and longevity of a home’s heating and cooling equipment.

The next time you compare air filters, take time to find the perfect fit.

HVAC Filter Types: What to Know

Also known as an AC or furnace filter, HVAC air filters differ based on the material they’re made from and their filtration capabilities.

Filtration Rating

Filter performance is measured by its Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. Filters are assigned a MERV rating based on the size of particles they remove from the air. Lower ratings (1-6) remove only the largest airborne irritants, like hair and pollen. Filters with higher ratings (12-16) capture more irritants and are recommended for individuals with allergies or underlying respiratory issues like asthma.

When it’s time to replace your air filter, check your heating or cooling system's owner’s manual to find the MERV rating it was designed to work with.

AC and Furnace Filter Types by Material

There are several types of air filters made from different materials. A thorough air filter comparison requires a closer look at available materials and technologies.

  • Fiberglass and pleated air filters – Made of woven fiberglass, these disposal fiberglass air filters are inexpensive but tend to have lower MERV ratings. Pleated fiberglass filters use the same material as fiberglass filters but have a ridged pattern to increase surface area. They also utilize a polyester or cloth layer to improve filtration performance. Fiberglass filters, sometimes called “spun glass filters, " are the most common air filters used today.
  • HEPA filters – High-efficiency particulate air filters remove 99.97% of airborne irritants, including allergens. They’re considered the best option for allergy sufferers or individuals with respiratory issues. However, HEPA filters have one drawback: Because they offer such a high degree of filtration, they can cause underpowered HVAC systems to work harder. Make sure your equipment is rated for HEPA filters before installing one. HEPA filters have MERV ratings of 14 or higher.
  • UV filters – Ultraviolet filters use short-wave light to remove bacteria, viruses, and mold spores from the air. They use a specialized UV bulb inside the heating system that targets irritants as they circulate through the home’s ductwork. These devices aren’t as effective at removing dust and dander, which is why homeowners typically use a fiberglass or HEPA filter in addition to UV light. UV filters also transform oxygen into ozone; even trace amounts of ozone can cause chest pain.
  • Electrostatic filters – Electrostatic filters use magnetism to capture dust and airborne irritants. They’re available for many systems, and some are reusable. Washing an electrostatic filter removes dust and saves money on replacements.

How to Know What Air Filter to Buy

If you’re not sure which filter material or rating is right for your HVAC stack, start by looking at the filter currently in use.

When shopping for a new filter, perhaps an upgrade from what you currently use, the filter will be good if it meets these three important criteria:

  1. It’s within your HVAC equipment’s manufacturer's range of MERV ratings.
  2. It provides adequate air filtration for your home.
  3. It fits your system properly.

If you’re still unsure what type of HVAC filter you should use, contact your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning for a recommendation. We’ll recommend a filter made from the best material, the right MERV rating, and exact dimensions to suit your needs.

Choosing an HVAC Filter Is Easy with One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning

Who doesn’t like clean indoor air and extra money? Choosing a good filter is a smart, cost-effective investment in your family’s health that will also keep your HVAC system running smoothly for longer. Find your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning or call (800) 893-3523 today!