It's important to know how to properly maintain your heating and cooling system. You should call an HVAC professional for any repairs and to perform a yearly checkup on your system, but there are some simple things you can learn to do yourself, like changing the furnace filter. Filters have evolved from their original purpose of protecting the motor and internal parts of the furnace, and some can now keep harmful particles out of the air you and your family breathe.

Here are some tips on how to pick the filter best suited to your furnace and your lifestyle.

Look for the MERV rating

Each type of filter has a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV) rating, ranging from 1-20. The higher the number, the smaller the particles the filter can screen out, removing more contaminates and resulting in higher air quality.

Examine the options

There are several different types of furnace filters, and each one of them has its own benefits and limitations:

  • Disposable fiberglass filters are inexpensive but don't do much when it comes to cleaning the air in your home.
  • Disposable pleated filters cost a little more than their fiberglass counterparts but are still fairly inexpensive, and they can block some smaller harmful particles in the air. However, they may impede your airflow, causing your system to work harder and cost more to operate than with other filters.
  • Electrostatic filters come in both disposable and permanent varieties and are a good choice if you live with a smoker or if people in your home have allergies. They can eliminate contaminants from the air and the permanent, reusable type can last 6-8 years. They do require regular maintenance, and experts recommend vacuuming the filter once a month and washing it every three months.
  • High-efficiency pleated filters are used in hospitals because they're able to catch very small particles. These filters provide the highest air quality but are fairly expensive. These are the best choice if someone in your home has respiratory problems or a compromised immune system.

Consider your lifestyle

While a filter with a higher MERV rating will render better air quality, there are other factors to consider. Does anyone in your home have special health needs? Do you have pets, or are there other potential indoor pollutants? How much room do you have in your budget? You may find a mid-range filter is adequate for your needs. When in doubt, consult a professional HVAC technician.

Whichever filter you choose, be sure to change or clean it as recommended by the manufacturer. Regardless of its MERV rating, an old, clogged filter will impede the ability of your furnace to do its job efficiently.

Talk to an HVAC professional

Still unsure what type of filter is right for your furnace? Call your local HVAC professional and schedule your yearly furnace maintenance appointment. He or she will check to see if your system is working properly and provide guidance on the type of filter that will best fit your needs and system.

Your local One Hour Air Conditioning and Heating® technician is always here to help. Contact us and we'll help you choose the right filter.