Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary in quality and size, and some have features that others don't. In most cases we recommend using the filter your HVAC manufacturer recommends pairing with your equipment.

All filters are assigned MERV ratings, which go from 1–20. MERV is short for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher ranking means the filter can trap smaller particulates. This sounds outstanding, but a filter that traps finer dust can clog more quickly, raising pressure on your system. If your unit isn’t created to function with this kind of filter, it can restrict airflow and cause other issues.

Unless you live in a medical center, you likely don’t need a MERV ranking higher than 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC units are specifically made to operate with a filter with a MERV level below 13. Occasionally you will learn that good systems have been designed to run with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should get most of the common triggers, such as pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to catch mold spores, but we suggest having a professional remove mold as opposed to trying to conceal the trouble with a filter.

Sometimes the packaging demonstrates how frequently your filter should be changed. From what we know, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the additional cost.

Filters are made from varying materials, with one-use fiberglass filters being most typical. Polyester and pleated filters grab more debris but may decrease your unit’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you may want to use a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like installing a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling unit. It’s very doubtful your equipment was made to handle that level of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in Richmond, think about installing a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works along with your HVAC system.