Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary in quality and measurements, and some have specifications that others don't. In most instances we suggest getting the filter your HVAC manufacturer says to pair with your unit.

All filters have MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A larger rating means the filter can grab smaller particulates. This sounds good, but a filter that traps finer dust can become obstructed faster, increasing pressure on your system. If your unit isn’t created to work with this type of filter, it may lower airflow and lead to other troubles.

Unless you live in a hospital, you likely don’t need a MERV ranking above 13. In fact, most residential HVAC systems are specifically made to run with a filter with a MERV rating under 13. Sometimes you will find that quality systems have been designed to work with a MERV rating of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should trap many common triggers, such as pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to stop mold spores, but we recommend having a professional eliminate mold rather than trying to conceal the trouble with a filter.

Often the packaging shows how regularly your filter should be exchanged. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters last longer, and are worth the additional expense.

Filters are made from varying materials, with disposable fiberglass filters being standard. Polyester and pleated filters trap more debris but may decrease your unit’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you might want to use a HEPA filter, know that's like installing a MERV 16 filter in your HVAC system. It’s highly unlikely your equipment was created to handle that kind of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in Atlanta, think about adding a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This product works alongside your heating and cooling system.