Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters differ in quality and measurements, and some have features that others don't. In most situations we suggest using the filter your HVAC manufacturer suggests pairing with your system.

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

A larger rating indicates the filter can catch finer substances. This sounds good, but a filter that traps finer substances can clog more quickly, raising pressure on your system. If your equipment isn’t designed to function with this model of filter, it might restrict airflow and cause other problems.

Unless you reside in a hospital, you likely don’t require a MERV ranking greater than 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC systems are specifically made to run with a filter with a MERV ranking below 13. Sometimes you will find that decent systems have been engineered to work with a MERV ranking of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV rating of 5 should get many everyday annoyance, such as pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to trap mold spores, but we advise having a professional remove mold as opposed to trying to mask the trouble with a filter.

Often the packaging indicates how frequently your filter should be replaced. From what we know, the accordion-style filters last longer, and are worth the additional cost.

Filters are manufactured from varying materials, with single-use fiberglass filters being standard. Polyester and pleated filters trap more dirt but may limit your equipment’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you may be interested in using a HEPA filter, know that's like adding a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling system. It’s highly doubtful your system was designed to handle that amount of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in the Wasatch Front region, think about getting a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This product works alongside your heating and cooling system.