Air Filter Types and Applications

Air Filter Types and Applications

When choosing a new air filter, it is important to know which type of filter is going to work best for your needs. Do you need something for your allergies? Are you too busy to change your filters changed at a frequency to support proper airflow or do you want to set a reminder for next year and not have to think about it again? Are you worried about your carbon footprint? Maybe you have seven dogs, three cats, and two ferrets, no judgment we’re animal people too. We would just like you to think about getting a heavier duty filter to help with that pet dander, pollen, and whatever else your four-legged family has tangled into their fur.

There is only one rating system that is recognized by any government agency and that is the MERV. If an air filter says anything else, it is that company’s specific rating system. That is not to say that it is a bad air filter, more that you can’t compare it to another filter without knowing how their ranking system works. It is much easier to compare brands and pricing when everyone is using the same rating system. What does MERV stand for? The EPA says that MERV is the,

“Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values …and report(s) a filter's ability to capture larger particles between 0.3 and 10 microns (µm)”

Which simply put means what is the smallest air pollutants can this filter remove? While most would assume a homeowner would always want a filter with the best filtration system; however, the air pressure is changed by different air filters depending on their thickness and MERV rating. Some HVAC units are not compatible with certain air filters for this very reason, they need a higher rate of airflow then these filters can supply. So how can a homeowner choose the right filters for their needs?

We have made a handy little comparison between different filter types to help each homeowner decide what is best for their needs. Since each HVAC system may have different needs, it is always best to check what the manufacturer recommends using with their system. They will give you the type and MERV rating that should be used with their system.

Fiberglass Air Filters

Fiberglass Air Filters are the most common type of air filter. Disposable, and the most affordable on the market. It's made with strands of fiberglass. They are extremely effective at protecting your HVAC system from dirt and debris but are not able to strain many airborne contaminants. Homeowners that have respiratory problems or serve allergies may want to invest in a different filter. These filters also need to be changed every one to three months. They are also not the most environmentally friendly air filter on the market.

Media Filters

Media Filters tend to have higher MERV ratings and more benefits than the standard Fiberglass Air Filters. These filters offer better filtration without affecting airflow or static pressure. This is great for homeowners that need a bit of extra filtration because of respiratory problems and or allergies that they may suffer from. Media Filters also do not need to be changed as frequently as standard filters, which means less work for the homeowner and lowers their carbon footprint. Another benefit of Media Filters is they can fight against bacteria and other particles by sealing them into the filter preventing them from being pushed back into the home.

Pleated filters

Cotton or polyester fabrics folded are into Pleated Air Filters and range between MERV 8 – 13. They are very similar to the Fiberglass Filters; they are more environmentally friendly because these fabrics break down, unlike fiberglass. While they do not do an effective job at purifying the air, they are effective at filtering dust and other airborne pollutants like it.

Washable Air Filters

Washable Filters are just any filter that is not disposable, they come in a wide variety of styles and sizes like the first two on this list. Unlike any of the others on this list, if these filters are compatible with the HVAC unit, there is no need to ever replace these types of filters. Each manufacturer will have different instructions on how to properly take care of them. There are only two cons to Reusable Filters, one is if used while dump will cause mold growth and bacteria buildup. Homeowners must be sure that they are completely dry to avoid breathing in harmful mildew or mold spores. They also tend to have a lower MERV rating so are not a great option for those who suffer from respiratory issues. They will save the homeowner a lot of money over the life of the HVAC unit since they never need to replace them.

Electrostatic Air Filters

Electrostatic Air Filters use an electrostatic charge to attract dust and airborne particles to prevent them from being distributed within a home. They are made from a mixture of different fibers to create static electricity; they also tend to have a higher MERV rating so are much better for allergy suffers. They cost a bit more than your standard pleated air filters but last a bit longer. These filters are also great for homeowners that have indoor/outdoor pets that tend to track more dirt and dust within a home.

HEPA Filters

HEPA Filters have a MERV rating of 16 or higher and are normally not used in residential units. They can remove 99.7% of airborne particles and other allergens. Everything from cigarette smoke to bacteria. They are great if someone has serious respiratory issues or other health issues. Since they tend to be more on the expensive side, the average homeowner won’t use them. They also are not compatible with all units; the thickness can restrict airflow. Just make sure to check that your unit can handle the restriction before buying these types of filters.

UV Filters

UV Filters are exactly what they sound like; using shortwave UV light to inactivate viruses and kill bacteria. It is a disinfectant for the air passing through your ducts. UV Filters are also great in areas that have high mold and mold spores in the air. They are as efficient for dust and other pollutants so may not be the best option for those with serious allergies or a lot of pets. These types of filters must be installed by a licensed professional because they can be dangerous if installed incorrectly and are broken. It is important that if this is the route a homeowner would like to go with that, they research the company that they are planning to use to install these filters.

We hope that this information helps to make navigating your next purchase of air filters a better more informed decision; we also want to remind you to check your air filters. It might be time to swap them out.


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Las Vegas Mechanical - HVAC Commercial Mechanical Contractor


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