Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary in quality and dimensions, and some have specs that others don't. In most cases we advise installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer recommends pairing with your system.

All filters are classified with MERV ratings, which range from 1–20. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher value indicates the filter can grab finer particles. This sounds great, but a filter that traps finer substances can clog more quickly, raising pressure on your equipment. If your unit isn’t designed to function with this kind of filter, it can restrict airflow and create other troubles.

Unless you reside in a medical center, you probably don’t have to have a MERV rating above 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC units are specifically designed to run with a filter with a MERV rating below 13. Sometimes you will discover that quality systems have been designed to run with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should get the majority of the everyday nuisances, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to catch mold spores, but we suggest having a professional remove mold instead of trying to mask the trouble with a filter.

Often the packaging demonstrates how often your filter should be replaced. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the extra cost.

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

While you may want to use a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like putting a MERV 16 filter in your HVAC unit. It’s extremely unlikely your system was created to handle that kind of resistance. If you’re worried about indoor air quality in Fort Worth, think about adding a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This product works alongside your HVAC system.