Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters differ in quality and measurements, and some have specs that others don't. In most cases we advise using 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 higher ranking means the filter can trap smaller particulates. This sounds good, but a filter that stops finer dirt can become blocked faster, increasing pressure on your equipment. If your system isn’t designed to work with this model of filter, it could reduce airflow and create other issues.

Unless you live in a hospital, you more than likely don’t have to have a MERV ranking greater than 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC equipment is specifically engineered to run with a filter with a MERV ranking under 13. Sometimes you will find that quality systems have been engineered to work with a MERV rating of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should catch many daily triggers, such as pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters assert they can trap mold spores, but we advise having a professional get rid of mold rather than trying to conceal the problem with a filter.

Usually the packaging demonstrates how often your filter should be changed. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the added price.

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

While you may want to use a HEPA filter, know that's like adding a MERV 16 filter in your comfort equipment. It’s highly unrealistic your equipment was designed to work with level of resistance. If you’re worried about indoor air quality in Hilton Head Island, consider getting a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works in tandem with your HVAC system.