Are all HVAC air filters the same?

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

All filters are classified with MERV ratings, which go from 1–20. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A larger rating indicates the filter can catch more miniscule particulates. This sounds great, but a filter that stops finer dirt can become obstructed more quickly, heightening pressure on your system. If your equipment isn’t designed to run with this type of filter, it may decrease airflow and lead to other problems.

Unless you are in a medical facility, you more than likely don’t have to have a MERV rating above 13. In fact, most residential HVAC equipment is specifically made to operate with a filter with a MERV level under 13. Frequently you will discover that decent systems have been engineered to operate with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should get the majority of the common nuisances, like pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to stop mold spores, but we advise having a professional get rid of mold as opposed to trying to mask the trouble with a filter.

Often the packaging demonstrates how frequently your filter should be replaced. In our experience, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the added price.

Filters are manufactured from differing materials, with disposable fiberglass filters being most typical. Polyester and pleated filters grab more dirt but may limit your unit’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you could tempted to use a HEPA filter, know that's like putting a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling system. It’s very doubtful your equipment was created to handle that level of resistance. If you’re concerned about indoor air quality in Champaign, consider adding a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This product works alongside your comfort system.