The Insider’s Guide to Air Filters

Change your Air Filter regularly.HVAC systems for home, school and workplace have been commonplace for decades. Unfortunately, many people install an air filter with as little thought as purchasing a car wash sponge.

Logistics for Choosing Air Filters

The environment that you are air conditioning or heating indicates the strength and durability you need in the selection of an air filter. Your home has lower requirements for filtering steel dust, wood, oil and residue irritants from your air than your workplace, for example. Nonetheless, as homeowner and family protector, it is your responsibility to purchase the correct and efficient air filter for your home’s safe air.

MERV and M3 Rating and What They Mean

Microbe Efficiency Reporting Value (shortened to MERV) and M3 ( meaning Filtrate Microbe Efficiency Value) are the two efficiency registers looked to by experts for measuring efficiency of air filters protecting your air from dust, microbes, pollen, spores, bacteria, viruses, and allergens. The higher MERV or M3 number reflects the higher strength the filter is certified as being prohibitive for any microbes listed above. This is printed on each filter package for the consumer and should also be imprinted inside the homeowner’s brain as the main criteria for selecting filters.

Your home requires protection from air pollutants that creep in naturally, are brought in by your family unknowingly, or are grown in your home surreptitiously through cooking, laundry, pets, and vagaries of living in general. The higher MERV (8 – 11 at least) or M3 (1050 – 1205 at minimum) air filters would put a guard against a clever mini-microbe getting into your home’s air and your family’s lungs.

These safer air filters also should be replaced when dirty. At the minimum you should change your air filters every three months, according to the packages–but at least once a month according to the experts who work with HVACs every day. Disparities in recommendations such as this make the homeowner’s choice of  air filters for the home a tougher selection than it should be. Whether a new or seasoned homeowner, you just need to know the following:

Types of Air Filters

Cardboard Filters The cardboard air filter is one of the disposable filters on the market. It comes in pleated or non-pleated design and it works well, although it requires replacing frequently. It will stop allergens and dust provided you do not have inside pets increasing the hair, fur and dander load. Whether you are a young new homeowner or elder retired person, you would be better off purchasing the air filters that are made of synthetics with a higher MERV count. You will always need to check your air filter regularly and change it no less than every 4 weeks. Read the instructions on the package of your cardboard filter, pleated or non-pleated. The MERV or M3 rating is paramount in any filter you purchase. The higher the rating, the more protected your family will be.

Non-pleated air filters Simply put, they do not have the same holding design to grab dust, dirt, allergens, microbes as the pleated design. Sometimes they are referred to as bowling ball catchers because they let smaller things through, especially (!) if they are thinner media. Again, whether pleated or not, the rating for that particular filter is what should guide the homeowner.

Pleated air filters vs. non-pleated filters Pleated filters are a new to residential HVACs. They give more free area for air passage while being tightly woven. Pleats also have the advantage of being able to hold more. If taken apart, the filter is much larger than the frame. While this is a good concept, the effect isn’t, if your vent will only accept a 1” thick filter. It works if you have a multi-inch really thick filter set up. You can have your cake and eat it too with thick filters. You should pay attention to number of pleats per foot. The more pleats, the more filtering. It will have a higher capacity and a lower drop than other filters measuring the same but having less pleats per foot.

Reusable Air Filters Don’t use these. Period. Reusables require EPA regulated washing and disposing of dirty water, and it is difficult to reinstall a washed filter without retaining moisture ready to become disease-bearing fungus. When you read the MERV or M3 rating on reusable filters, you will see they top out at 4, while less expensive disposables range up to MERV 16. Disposable yes– reusable no.

The homeowner certainly knows his HVAC system cost thousands of dollars. However, many new homeowners do not appreciate the great importance of a simple HVAC filter. A good fit and high MERV rating should be your filter criteria, along with diligent monthly filter changing.

If you are considering replacing your HVAC system, you can incorporate modification changes now to improve size and type of air filter servicing your system. Contact our HVAC experts now for free consultation.

About Chris Carpenter

Chris Carpenter has owned Affordable Heating and Air for 25 years. Chris is a fully factory-trained technician with a wealth of knowledge about heating and air conditioning. He enjoys educating homeowners about the pros and cons of each systems so they can make an informed decision when addressing their needs. Chris’s son and business partner, Paul, has been working with him for the last three years and their key to success is “being professional, honest and forthright in all our dealings and treating people as they would like to be treated.” You can reach Chris by calling 707-953-3345 at Affordable Heating and Air.

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