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Air Filters 101: What Are the Different Air Filters for My Home?

air filter types

Maintaining great indoor air quality in your home is essential for your family’s safety. Between dust, pollen, pet dander, and other particles, you want to do as much as possible to maintain a healthy and clean environment in your house. That’s why having an effective air filter for your HVAC system is a necessity.

But with so many different types of air filters, it can be challenging to find the one that’s right for you. Once you understand each kind of air filter and its features, you can ensure that your family is breathing safer air and your HVAC system is being kept free from larger dust particles that could damage it.

Here are some insights into the different kinds so you can determine what the best type of air filter for your home is.

7 Types of HVAC Air Filters for Your Home

There are various types of air filters for your home, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the air filter you choose will depend on many factors, including:

  • Air Quality: Some homeowners may prefer a basic filter that does enough to get the job done, while others may want one that will keep the air completely free of pollutants and allergens. This may be especially important for families with severe allergies or compromised immune systems as air quality can significantly impact the health of these individuals.
  • Climate: Locations that experience extremely wet or humid climates will require a filter that can help prevent the threat of mold and mildew.
  • Pets: If there are any pets in your household, you may need to consider a higher-rated filter to eliminate pet dander and fur.
  • MERV Rating: The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating measures how effectively an air filter can trap dust and other contaminants from passing into the air stream. Filters with a higher MERV rating are usually more effective in trapping smaller particles versus filters with a lower MERV rating.

So, what are the different types of air filters? Let’s find out.

1. Fiberglass Filters

These filters are made with strands of fiberglass that are spun together. As one of the most common types of HVAC filters, fiberglass air filters are known for being both cost-effective and efficient in catching dust and lint. They are a more affordable option for homeowners, and they are completely disposable, allowing filter replacement to be a lot simpler.

Unfortunately, fiberglass filters usually have a lower MERV rating. While this does mean that the filter puts less strain on your HVAC system, as well as keeps some dust out of the air, it also means that it’s ineffective at filtering out smaller pollutants. If you or someone in your family suffers from allergies, this may not be the right air filter for you since it won’t completely eliminate particles from the air.

2. Pleated Air Filters

Pleated air filters can be made with cotton or polyester and typically have a MERV rating of five to 13. The pleats included in these filters give them an advantage because they increase the surface area to provide better filtering, allowing the pleated filter to capture difficult pollutants, allergens, and mold spores more effectively. Pleated air filters also come in both disposable and reusable formats, and they can even help to suppress noise coming from your HVAC system.

The only downside to pleated air filters is that they are less resistant to airflow. This means that your HVAC unit may have to work a little harder to pull air, causing the system to be slightly less efficient. However, with pleated filters also being affordable, they are still a reasonably priced option for homeowners looking to improve indoor air quality.

3. High-Efficiency Particulate Aire (HEPA) Filters

HEPA filters can remove up to 99.7% of pollen, dust, bacteria, mold, and other airborne particles in your home. With a MERV rating close to 16, these types of HVAC air filters provide the highest level of protection for your home and can even eliminate particles that are as small as 0.3 microns. For those who experience respiratory problems or allergies, this type of air filter for your HVAC system can provide the most relief because it can effectively purify your home’s air.

Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages to HEPA filters. First, they are more expensive than other air filter types, like fiberglass or pleated filters. Additionally, while a higher MERV rating does mean the filter is more effective at purifying the air, it can also make it more difficult for air to be pulled through your HVAC system. HEPA filters may also not fit a residential HVAC system, so they will need to be professionally adjusted by an HVAC contractor.

types of hvac air filters

4. Ultraviolet Light (UV) Filters

Another type of air filter for your home is a UV filter. These filters use short-wave ultraviolet light to kill viruses and bacteria in the air. The UV lamps on this type of filter can disinfect the air with germicidal radiation, making them an excellent choice for killing microorganisms, bacteria, and mold spores that may be harmful to your health. By eliminating pollutants like germs and mold, UV filters can give your home exceptional indoor air quality.

On the flipside, UV filters do offer some disadvantages. While they are great at eliminating bacteria, they may not be as effective against dust, gases, cigarette smoke, or other fumes. In addition, UV filters tend to be a lot more expensive than other air filter types.

5. Media Filters

Media filters can actually offer a lot more benefits to homeowners than other standard filters might. They work by filtering dirt and sealing it into the filter, preventing any dirt particles from being expelled. They offer the same filtration level as a filter with a higher MERV rating, but they do so without interrupting the airflow in your HVAC system because of their larger surface area.

Although media filters are sturdy, cost-effective, and only need to be changed once or twice a year, they do need to be professionally installed. Media filters are also ineffective at filtering out strong odors in your home.

6. Electrostatic Filters

This type of HVAC air filter uses small paper and cotton fibers to create static, ultimately acting as a magnet for airborne particles like dust. An electrostatic filter is one of the best options for those with allergies because the magnetism of the filter is so strong that it’s highly effective at eliminating allergens in the air.

Additionally, electrostatic filters are extremely cost-effective because they can be reusable. Instead of throwing out an old filter each time your HVAC system needs a replacement, you can simply wash the electrostatic filter and reuse it.

7. Washable Filters

Finally, installing a washable filter in your home’s HVAC system is a great way to save money and be environmentally friendly. While washable filters may be more expensive upfront, you can save money in the long run by not having to always buy a replacement filter. Instead, simply wash and reuse the same filter repeatedly.

Keep in mind that washable filters must be maintained well to work effectively. After washing, it’s important to make sure the filter is completely dry before being installed back into your HVAC system. If any excess moisture is left on the filter, there’s a higher chance of mold and mildew developing, which could then be expelled into your home.

Because washable filters must be dry before they are put back into an HVAC system, we often recommend that homeowners buy two. This allows you to keep an air filter in your system at all times and still wash the filters when necessary.

No matter what type of air filter you choose, you’ll always want to make sure you change it when it’s dirty. Our HVAC professionals at Cates Heating and Cooling recommend that you change your air filter every few months. This ensures that dust, dirt, and other particles won’t build up and inhibit the function of your HVAC system or ruin the air quality in your home.

If you need help having your HVAC air filter installed, give Cates Heating and Cooling a call at 913-888-4470 for Kansas residents and 816-944-1844 for Missouri residents.

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