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 instances we suggest getting the filter your HVAC manufacturer suggests pairing with your equipment.

All filters have MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV is short for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A bigger rating indicates the filter can grab finer particulates. This sounds good, but a filter that traps finer substances can clog more quickly, raising pressure on your equipment. If your unit isn’t made to work with this model of filter, it could reduce airflow and create other problems.

Unless you reside in a medical facility, you likely don’t need a MERV ranking greater than 13. In fact, many residential HVAC units are specifically engineered to operate with a filter with a MERV ranking lower than 13. Frequently you will discover that decent systems have been engineered to operate with a MERV rating of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should get the majority of the common nuisances, such as pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters assert they can trap mold spores, but we suggest having a professional remove mold rather than trying to mask the problem with a filter.

Often the packaging shows how often your filter should be changed. In our experience, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the extra cost.

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

While you could tempted to use a HEPA filter, know that's like installing a MERV 16 filter in your comfort equipment. It’s very doubtful your unit was created to work with amount of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in Kansas City, consider getting a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works in tandem with your HVAC system.