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 ranking means the filter can trap finer particles. This sounds great, but a filter that catches finer substances can clog more quickly, heightening pressure on your equipment. If your unit isn’t designed to run with this kind of filter, it may restrict airflow and create other issues.

Unless you reside in a medical facility, you probably don’t require 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. Occasionally you will learn that quality systems have been engineered to operate with a MERV ranking of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV ranking 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 advise 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 last longer, and are worth the extra cost.

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

While you could want to use a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like putting a MERV 16 filter in your HVAC equipment. It’s highly unlikely your system was designed to handle that kind of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in Fort Worth, think over adding a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This product works alongside your HVAC system.