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Why All Furnace Filters Aren’t Created Equally

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The One You Choose Can Affect the Way Your St. Louis Heating System Works

Residential HVAC systems with an air handler and blower – like forced-air heaters and central air – require the use of an air filter. The air filter blocks dust, pollen, dirt, pet dander, and other particles from entering your HVAC system and collecting on its internal components, like the blower wheel or coil.

Without the filter, and specifically a clean one, you can count on needing to call Meyer Heating and Air quite frequently for furnace repair in St. Louis. The internal components of your system need to be clean to work most effectively and efficiently.

What Are Air Filters Made Of?

An air filter for your forced-air HVAC system is usually made of a pleated paper or cloth, or spun fiberglass, and is enclosed in a cardboard frame. Some pleated filters include a panel of wire mesh on one side, which helps the filter maintain its shape. You can purchase these air filters at your local hardware store.

Fiberglass air filters don’t decompose in a landfill, but paper or cloth filters will, assuming they have not been treated with any additional substance. They also can be recycled. Both types of air filters will do their jobs, although many people find that the pleated air filters are better. The pleated versions are capable of filtering out smaller particles in the air, are less likely to clog, and can last longer than fiberglass ones.

Should I Use a Disposable Filter or a Reusable Furnace Filter?

The majority of our clients choose disposable filters because they can be changed quickly and without extra steps. However, some people prefer a reusable electrostatic filter. These filters attract dust particles and contaminants like a magnet, but must be washed by hand.

Reusable filters will last for the life of your HVAC system and can cost from $60 to more than $100. Disposable filters will need to be replaced regularly, and can cost less than $100 for a multipack large enough to last you for a full year. You’ll need to purchase a new pack every year, so the cost can add up over the lifetime of your furnace.

Washable air filters, unfortunately, don’t have the best reputation for air purification and generally have a low MERV rating. In fact, a high-quality disposable filter captures up to 95 percent of small particles in the air; reusables don’t come close. However, you won’t be adding as much garbage to the landfill if you use one instead of disposable filters.

What is a MERV Value?

The biggest difference you’ll see across all your choices in air filters is how efficiently they clean your indoor air to rid it of contaminants. Filter efficiency is indicated by a MERV rating, the filter’s minimum efficiency reporting value. Standard MERV ratings range from one to 16; the higher the number, the better the filter will be at doing its job.

  • MERV 13-16 are considered high-efficiency filters and can remove particles 0.3 microns or larger. To put that into perspective, a single dust particle is about 5 microns. Not all systems can handle filters with such a high MERV rating, so always ask your friendly St. Louis heating and cooling specialist – that’s us! – before using filters like these.
  • MERV 9 to 12 can capture particles 1 micron or larger. This is the size of some bacteria and fungal spores. A filter with a MERV 9 rating can be used with most residential air handlers.
  • MERV 5 to 8 are the most common residential air filters in use. A MERV 6 filter, for example, is capable of catching things like lint, dust, pollen, dust mites, many mold spores, and pet dander.
  • MERV 1 to 4 filters provide a basic level of filtration and cost less than their counterparts. Washable air filters tend to have MERV ratings between one and four.

Can I Use a HEPA Filter in My Furnace?

HEPA filters have MERV values between 17 and 20. While you technically can use a HEPA filter in your standard furnace, you should know that they’re so thick and dense that they could negatively affect the airflow in your equipment, reduce heating and cooling effectiveness, and damage your system because of the restricted airflow. It’s a gamble most people are unwilling to take.

If you need cleaner air in your home than your standard filter is achieving, you might consider having us install a separate air purification system, called Sanuvox, which works even better than a HEPA filter and has been proven effective at killing viruses in the air, including coronavirus. Talk to us about upgrading your air filtration or purification – give us a call at 314-279-0463. We’ll share all your installation options with you and give you a free estimate customized to your home.

How Often Should I Change My Air Filter?

Changing your air filter is part of basic heating maintenance. We recommend changing your air filter every 30 to 90 days, and even more frequently if you have pets. This can help keep your home’s air cleaner and fresher, and keeps your system in better condition. If you choose a washable air filter, you’ll want to wash it just as often as you’d change a disposable.

What Else Should I Know About Air Filters?

You can’t install just any filter you pick up at the store. In addition to varying MERV values, filters come in various dimensions and thicknesses. Your furnace will use a specific size; anything smaller or larger simply will not work. You can find what size air filter you need by reading your owner’s manual, or looking for the size printed onto the cardboard frame of your existing filter.

Need St. Louis Furnace Repair? Call Us Today!

If your furnace is getting less and less efficient, or you’re noticing an issue that’s affecting how your heating system runs, schedule an appointment with Meyer Heating and Air, serving cities around St. Louis, including Ballwin, Chesterfield, O’Fallon, St. Charles, and Sappington. Complete your non-urgent heating repair requests online, or reach us 24/7 by phone at 314-279-0463.