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 recommend getting the filter your HVAC manufacturer suggests pairing with your unit.

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

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

Unless you are in a medical center, you more than likely don’t need a MERV ranking higher than 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC equipment is specifically engineered to run with a filter with a MERV ranking lower than 13. Frequently you will discover that good systems have been engineered to run with a MERV rating of 8 or 11.

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

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

Filters are manufactured from varying materials, with single-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 designed to work with level of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in Kansas City, consider installing a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works along with your HVAC system.