Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary in quality and dimensions, and some have features that others don't. In most instances we recommend getting the filter your HVAC manufacturer says to pair with your equipment.

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

A larger rating means the filter can trap more miniscule particulates. This sounds outstanding, but a filter that catches finer dust can become blocked more rapidly, increasing pressure on your equipment. If your equipment isn’t created to work with this model of filter, it may lower airflow and lead to other troubles.

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

All filters with a MERV ranking of 5 should get the majority of the common annoyance, such as pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to trap mold spores, but we recommend having a professional eliminate mold rather than trying to mask the problem with a filter.

Often the packaging shows how frequently your filter should be exchanged. From what we know, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the added expense.

Filters are made from varying materials, with disposable fiberglass filters being most typical. 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 adding a MERV 16 filter in your HVAC system. It’s extremely unlikely your system was designed 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 unit works alongside your comfort system.