Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters are different in quality and dimensions, and some have specifications that others don't. In most situations we advise installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer suggests pairing with your equipment.

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

A bigger ranking indicates the filter can grab finer particulates. This sounds outstanding, but a filter that stops finer substances can become obstructed faster, heightening pressure on your system. If your unit isn’t made to function with this type of filter, it could restrict airflow and cause other issues.

Unless you reside in a medical center, you probably don’t have to have a MERV level higher than 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC equipment is specifically made to operate with a filter with a MERV ranking under 13. Occasionally you will discover that decent systems have been engineered to run with a MERV ranking of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV ranking of 5 should catch most of the daily triggers, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters say they can stop mold spores, but we suggest having a professional remove mold instead of trying to hide the trouble with a filter.

Often the packaging demonstrates how frequently your filter should be replaced. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters hold up better, and are worth the extra expense.

Filters are made from different materials, with one-use fiberglass filters being most typical. Polyester and pleated filters grab more dust but may limit your equipment’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you might want to use a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like installing a MERV 16 filter in your HVAC system. It’s very unrealistic your equipment was created to handle that kind of resistance. If you’re concerned about indoor air quality in Austin, think over getting a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This unit works along with your HVAC system.