The filter in your AC and heating system serves two purposes: protecting your furnace and air handler from damage and keeping the air you breathe as clean as possible. However, the very first air filters were not designed for air cleaning so much as for system protection, and there are still many air filters out there that are not so effective at keeping your air clean and healthy.
Finding effective filters for cleaning the air
If your family members suffer from asthma or allergy symptoms, your air conditioning and heating systems certainly are not helping. These circulate contaminants around the air, forcing them back out into your living space and making it easier to inhale them. Stop dust, pollen, mold spores, and even bacteria and viruses by selecting the filter that is right for your home.
- Fiberglass: This is the most basic filter, and it tends to have a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) of about 1-4 (on a scale that goes up to 16, or up to 20 in some cases). While these are effective at blocking debris and removing some contaminants, they really don’t do much to improve your air quality.
- Washable filters: Washable filters are convenient, but they also tend to have low efficiency ratings, and they may contribute to the spread of bacteria.
- Pleated Filters: Pleated filters have a larger surface area, so they are better able to trapped dust and other incoming debris. These can have MERV ratings of between 8 and 13.
- HEPA: A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter can trap most of the smallest pollutants moving through your air.
Make sure it’s the right fit for your system
You should keep in mind that, sometimes, air filters are so effective that they can actually restrict airflow into the system. If your HEPA filter is too restrictive, the heating and air conditioning systems will not be able to pull in enough air to run properly and they may encounter a number of issues as a result, not to mention an increase in your energy bills. Don’t choose a MERV rating higher than 12 to be safe, and have a technician advise you on selecting the right filter size when you get an opportunity.