You’ve probably experienced the feeling of confusion when trying to select the correct home air filter for your needs. What’s the best one? Should you just get the cheapest? These are just some of the questions that make purchasing air filters for your home mind-boggling. Let Strand Brothers Service Experts try to help you de-mystify the air filter dilemma.
Here’s an easy way to tell how efficient your existing filter is (NOTE: To avoid a big mess, we highly recommend conducting this test outside or over a protected surface): Set the filter horizontally, then with everyday table salt, pour the salt through the filter then see the amount comes out the other side. If some or all the salt falls through the filter, then you can imagine that the filter will let dust pass through as well. You should probably upgrade your filter to an air filter that’s more efficient.
Home air filter selection depends primarily on three factors: Size, material and MERV rating.
1) Filter Size
Purchasing a properly sized air filter for your Austin home is important. Simply look at the label of your existing filter to see the dimensions, or just measure it yourself. Most home air filters are 1” thick, but there are a variety of standard width and height dimensions, and some systems have thicker filters.
2) Material & MERV Rating
MERV ratings are the efficiencies of the filter on a scale of 16. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This number informs the user, under the least efficient conditions, how well the filter is designed to hold contaminants.
As a basic example, these are some common MERV ratings and how they relate to efficiencies. This is only a guide, so don’t forget to read the filter manufacturers’ information when purchasing specific filters.
Rating Average Filtration Efficiency
MERV 1-4 60-80%
Fiberglass, Disposable Panel, Washable metal/synthetic, self-charging (Passive)
MERV 5-8 80-95%
Pleated, Media panel, Cube
MERV 9-12 >95%
MERV 13-16 >98%
Be Careful About High MERV Ratings
While a higher MERV number may provide better filtration efficiency, it is extremely important to understand that too high a MERV filter may also require more to operate your HVAC system. The higher the MERV, the less the air may flow through the system, and the harder the system may need to work. Your goal is to get the right balance between air flow, air filtration level and energy efficiency.
Look at it this way, the most efficient ‘filter’ would equivalent to a piece of plywood that would just trap ALL contaminants and all the air from entering your Austin home. That's definitely the “best” air filtration, but would also be like living in a box.
A safe bet for most systems would be a MERV 6-8. A higher MERV filter should be used based upon the advice of your Strand Brothers Service Experts service advisor to ensure your system has the capability of moving the proper amount of air through higher efficiency filters. You normally do not want to give up energy-efficiency for filter efficiency; you want a balance of the two. However, if your family deals with allergies or respiratory problems and needs a high MERV air filter, consider a whole-home air filtration solution that will satisfy your energy and filter efficiency needs.
Filtration has changed greatly over the past ten years. In the beginning, home air filters were used in the furnace or air handler only to protect the comfort equipment itself. The story is different today. Austin area homeowners expect their air filter to save loved ones from a wide variety of harmful pollutants, dust mites, and even prevent the need for dusting. Dare to dream!