Air Filtration Options — Choosing the Right Air Filter
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Posted June 1, 2017
Love is in the air (filter)! Show your home some love by learning which air filter is best for your home and remembering to replace it every 30-90 days, more or less depending on your air filter type and if you have pets, a large household, or excess dust and debris.
Love is in the Air (Filter)
One important, though often overlooked, component of homeowner HVAC maintenance is changing the filter. It’s the one basic procedure that most anyone can do on their own, without the assistance of a professional. If your furnace or air conditioner won’t turn on, the first thing you should check is the air filter.
With newer systems especially, sometimes your central air unit will turn itself off if the air filter becomes too clogged. This is a preventative safety mechanism designed to keep your system from overheating and potentially causing damage to itself.
How to Change an Air Filter
Don’t know how to change your filter? A little investigating will save you time, money, energy and improve the quality of your indoor air. It’s a good idea to check your air filter every month for dust, debris and other contaminants. But as a general rule, you should change it every 1-3 months (unless the instructions on your filter state otherwise). Wait no longer than 90 days to change your filter!
Watch this video to learn how to replace your HVAC filter:
If you have a reusable filter, learn how to clean it here:
A clean air filter is key in keeping your HVAC system running smoothly and ensuring good air quality in your home.
Clean Your Dryer Vent
Another home maintenance task you should check off is cleaning your clothes dryer vent. According to the National Fire Protection Association, “in 2010, an estimated 16,800 reported U.S. non-confined or confined home structure fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines (including combination washer/dryers) resulted in 51 civilian deaths, 380 civilian injuries, and $236 million in direct property damage.”
Learn how to clean your dryer vent with these tips from WikiHow. When the temperature starts to heat up, consider line drying your laundry to save energy and reduce your lint buildup.
Ahhh, Just Right – How to Choose the Right HVAC Filter
There are several different kinds of filters on the market of varying degrees of quality. Fortunately, there is a rating system set up to help the consumer in the decision-making process. All filters earn a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value number, or a MERV rating.
Like most ratings, the higher the number on the MERV scale, the higher the quality of the product (and the more effective it is in filtering the air). The filters that are recommended for residential HVAC systems are rated on a scale from 1-16 and are divided into three categories.
Air Filtration Options
Low-efficiency filters (MERV 1-6): These lower-rated filters, normally made with fiberglass, remove less than 10 percent of the particles that pass through them. Any filter rated a 6 or under is not recommended as their design has little effect on indoor air quality. All HVAC equipment comes standard with low-efficiency filters to provide protection from debris, but most technicians who install them will provide a higher-rated alternative filter.
Medium-efficiency filters (MERV 7-13): This is the preferred range of efficiency for residential HVAC systems. These filters, normally pleated polyester or cotton, remove about 30 to 50 percent of particles (down to 1.0 microns). Mold spores, auto emissions and other pollutants are filtered out, greatly improving indoor air quality without blocking air flow. There are several options in this range on the market including disposable and washable designs.
High-efficiency filters (MERV 14-16): The higher-rated filters are, obviously, capable of filtering out even more particles. Though they look very similar to their medium-efficiency counterparts, these designs can filter out a majority of particles (down to 0.3 microns). However, they are not recommended for residential use because they severely restrict airflow. These filters are used primarily for hospitals, restaurants and other public facilities that require a heavy-duty filtration system.
HEPA filters (MERV 17-20): HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Air filters) are rated the highest on the MERV scale. They have a minimum efficiency rating of 99.97 and can trap particles smaller than 0.3 microbes. These highly effective filters also block airflow considerably, can raise utility bills and cause great damage to an HVAC system. HEPA filters are used for specialized systems, vacuum cleaners and commercial air filters. If you are thinking of upgrading your filter to a HEPA or electrostatic model, your system will probably need professional modifications.
For most residential systems, the best option is a filter in the medium-efficiency range. The key to choosing the best filter is to find one that corresponds with the recommendations of your specific HVAC system. Contact your local HVAC specialist to decide which filter is best for your central air system.
Air Filter Specifics
Before you go looking for a new filter, there are a few other factors you will need to consider – including ensuring you have the correct size. Just take a quick look at your current filter to get the appropriate dimensions. The majority of filters for residential systems are 1-inch thick, but some larger homes require a thicker design for a higher volume of air. You’ll find that there are several options as far as style and material are concerned. Sticking with the style of your current filter is a good rule of thumb.
The performance of your HVAC system is affected by the density (and size) the material used. The filters that are the least expensive, and generally rated the lowest, have a layer of fibers (most often fiberglass), and are sometimes covered with a honeycomb-shaped grille.
HVAC filters that are pleated tend to be more efficient as the pleats offer a greater surface area to trap particles. Another option is a permanent electrostatic filter, which is also known as a “washable filter.” Washable filters are also the most economical as they can be reused for 5 to 10 years at a cost of about $20 each, however, they are normally less effective than disposable ones.
Since there are so many different types of air filtration systems to choose from, it’s very useful to contact a professional to help you with your decision. Hiller has a wide variety of air filtration options to choose from, including air purifiers and air cleaners.
Consider investing in an air cleaner, such as UV germicidal air irradiation if you are looking for ways to improve the indoor air quality in your home.
You can help supplement the efforts of your central air filtration system with some houseplants. The NASA Clean Air Study has identified the following indoor plants to be effective against indoor air contamination:
- English Ivy (Hedera Helix)
- Golden Pothos (Epipremnum Aureum)
- Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exalta Bostoniensis)
- Dracaena (Dracaena Deremensis)
- Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)
- Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata)
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
- Lady Palm (Rhapis Excelsa)
- Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)
- Snake Plant (Sansevieria Trifasciata)
Learn more about HVAC systems and indoor air quality by following this link to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Dirty and leaking air ducts also contribute to poor indoor air quality. Find out how regular air duct cleaning could benefit your home.
If you are thinking about buying a new air conditioning system, read this buying guide first.