Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary in quality and dimensions, and some have features that others don't. In most situations we recommend getting the filter your HVAC manufacturer suggests pairing with your equipment.

All filters are assigned MERV ratings, which range from 1–20. MERV means minimum efficiency reporting value.

A bigger ranking indicates the filter can grab more miniscule particles. This sounds outstanding, but a filter that traps finer substances can become obstructed more quickly, heightening pressure on your unit. If your system isn’t designed to work with this kind of filter, it can reduce airflow and create other problems.

Unless you live in a medical facility, you more than likely don’t need a MERV ranking greater than 13. In fact, many residential HVAC equipment is specifically designed to work with a filter with a MERV level below 13. Occasionally you will learn that decent systems have been designed to operate with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV rating of 5 should get many common triggers, such as pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters say they can stop mold spores, but we recommend having a professional eliminate mold as opposed to trying to mask the problem with a filter.

Usually the packaging shows how regularly your filter should be replaced. From what we know, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the added cost.

Filters are created from varying materials, with one-use fiberglass filters being the most common. Polyester and pleated filters trap more debris but may limit your system’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you may tempted to use a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like adding a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling equipment. It’s extremely unlikely your equipment was made to run with kind of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in Charleston, think about adding a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This product works along with your comfort system.