Just go to any home improvement store and the choice of home air filters can be dizzying. Which brand is best? Should you just get the cheapest? These are just some of the questions that make the selection mind-boggling. Let Epperson Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning try to help you de-mystify the air filter dilemma.
Here’s a simple way to figure out how efficient your current filter is (NOTE: Spare yourself a huge mess by conducting this experiment outside or with something below the filter to help keep things clear): Position the filter horizontally, then using everyday table salt, pour the salt through the filter to see the quantity that comes out the other side. If some or all the salt falls through the filter, then you can assume that the filter will let dust pass through as well. You should probably upgrade your filter to an air filter that’s more efficient.
There are 3 primary considerations when choosing a household air filter; Size, Material and MERV rating.
1) Filter Size
Purchasing a properly sized air filter for your Hilton Head Island home is important. Simply look at the label of your existing filter to see the dimensions, or just measure it yourself. Most home air filters are 1” thick, but there are a number of standard width and height dimensions, and some systems have thicker filters.
2) Material & MERV Rating
Filter efficiencies are given a number from 1-16 called the MERV rating. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This number informs the user, under the least efficient conditions, how well the filter is designed to trap contaminants.
To explain MERV ratings more impactfully, these are some common MERV ratings and how they correspond to efficiencies. This is only a guide, so don’t forget to read the filter manufacturers’ information when shopping for specific filters.
Rating Average Filtration Efficiency
MERV 1-4 60-80%
Fiberglass, Disposable Panel, Washable metal/synthetic, self-charging (Passive)
MERV 5-8 80-95%
Pleated, Media panel, Cube
MERV 9-12 >95%
MERV 13-16 >98%
Be Careful About High MERV Ratings
While a higher MERV number may ensure better filtration efficiency, it is critical to understand that too high a MERV filter may also cost you more to operate your HVAC system. The higher the MERV, the less the air may flow through the system, and the harder the system may need to work. Your goal is to get the right balance between air flow, air filtration level and energy efficiency.
Consider it this way, the most efficient ‘filter’ would actually be a piece of plywood that stops ALL contaminants and all the air from entering your Hilton Head Island home. That's definitely the “best” air filtration, but would also be a terrible way to live.
The default choice for most systems would be a MERV 6-8. A higher MERV filter should be used on the advice of your Epperson Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning representative to ensure your system has the capability of moving the suitable volume of air through higher efficiency filters. You generally do not want to sacrifice energy-efficiency for filter efficiency; you want a balance of the two. However, if your family has allergies or respiratory problems and the situation necessitates a high MERV rated air filter, consider a whole-home air filtration solution that will satisfy your energy and filter efficiency needs.
Filtration has changed greatly over the past ten years. Initially, home air filters were used in the furnace or air handler only to safeguard the comfort equipment itself. The story is different today. Hilton Head Island area homeowners expect their air filter to save kids from a whole host of harmful pollutants, dust mites, and even prevent the need for dusting. Dare to dream!