Just go to any home improvement store and the choice of home air filters can be dizzying. Which brand is best? Is the more expensive products worth the investment? These are just two of many of the questions that make selecting home air filters so mind-boggling. Let Strand Brothers Service Experts crack the code of home air filters for you, so you can feel comfortable with your purchase.
Here’s a simple way to determine how efficient your existing filter is (NOTE: To avoid a big mess, we highly recommend conducting this test outside or over a protected surface): Position the filter horizontally, then taking everyday table salt, begin to pour the salt through the filter and 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 that same size flow through. You really should upgrade your filter to something more efficient.
There are 3 primary considerations when choosing a household air filter; Size, Material and MERV rating.
1) Filter Size
Size is the easiest factor to ascertain. Simply look at the label of your existing filter to see the proper measurements, or just measure it yourself. Typically 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
The efficiencies of filters are rated on a scale of 16, known as MERV ratings. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This number informs the user, under the least efficient conditions, how well the filter is designed to contain contaminants.
To help explain the scale of this system, these are some usual MERV ratings and how they connect to efficiencies. This is only a guide, so don’t forget to read the filter manufacturers’ information when buying 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 provide better filtration efficiency, it is very important to understand that too high a MERV filter may also require more to operate your heating and air conditioning 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.
Look at it this way, the most efficient ‘filter’ would actually be a piece of plywood that would just trap ALL contaminants and all the air from entering your Austin home. That's maximum air filtration, but would also be like living in a box.
A safe bet for most systems would be a MERV 6-8. A higher MERV filter should be used subject to the advice of your Strand Brothers Service Experts service advisor to verify your system has the capability of moving the proper quantity of air through higher efficiency filters. You probably do not want to sacrifice energy-efficiency for filter efficiency; you want a balance of the two. However, if your family deals with allergies or respiratory problems and the situation necessitates a high MERV rated air filter, consider a whole-home air filtration solution that will achieve your energy and filter efficiency needs.
Filtration has changed significantly over the past ten years. Initially, home air filters were used in the furnace or air handler only to protect the comfort equipment itself. The story is different today. Austin area homeowners expect their air filter to save loved ones from a whole host of harmful pollutants, dust mites, and even prevent the need for dusting. Dare to dream!