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Types of Furnace Filters: A Buyer’s Guide

Replacing an air filter isn’t difficult to do, but choosing one could be. Today, there are many different types of furnace filters for HVAC systems. Not only do you have to take materials and filter levels into account, but you also have to make sure your choice is compatible with the furnace equipment in your home.

Below is a closer look at the differences between various types of HVAC filters including the benefits, drawbacks and materials used to make the filter.

Media for Different Types of Air Filters

When you see comparisons of air filter media types it’s comparing the material used to make the filter. What are air filters made of? That depends on the air filter.

Air filter media is one of the most important variables because it influences filtration. There are a few HVAC filter types that are more common than others. The two most common types of air filters for HVAC use are fiberglass and pleated air filters.

Fiberglass Air Filters

This filter is made up of layers of fiberglass that are supported by a metal frame. Fiberglass air filters are the cheapest option, but they are also the least effective and durable. These air filters will keep debris out of your HVAC equipment, but they aren’t the best at purifying the air your family breathes because fine particles can still get through.

Pleated Air Filters

Pleated air filters are considered to be superior at filtering compared to fiberglass air filters. They are made of a polyester or cotton material that catches smaller air particles, but it also has higher airflow resistance. The more pleats an air filter has the more thoroughly it will clean the air, but the tradeoff is reduced airflow.

Read More: Fiberglass vs Pleated Air Filters

Other Types of Furnace Filters

Fiberglass and pleated are the most common AC filter types, but they are far from the only option. There are a number of specialty air filter types that may be the most suitable in some situations.

Electrostatic Filters

An electrostatic air filter uses an electrostatic charge to attract and trap particles like a magnet. There are both disposable and washable electrostatic filters.

Activated Carbon Filters

The carbon within an activated carbon filter is able to trap gasses, particles and odors within its pores. Some of these filters can also trap VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Activated carbon filters are typically used to remove odors.

UV Filters

UV filters aren’t commonly used in homes because they aren’t ideal for cleaning the air of dust and pollution. However, UV filters can kill microbes, bacteria and viruses that are circulating through your home using ultraviolet light. If someone in the home has a compromised immune system, a UV filter can help protect their health.

Reusable Washable Air Filters

For those conscious of environmental impact and budget, one filter option is washable air filters. However, they tend to be better in concept than in reality. Washable filters are made with a plastic material, which is long-lasting but not the best at filtration. Its also difficult to clean and dry out before its placed in your home.

Read More: What You Need to Know About Washable Air Filters

HEPA Air Filters

If you put emphasis on air quality, you’ve probably heard the term HEPA before. HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air. The litmus test for whether a filter qualifies as HEPA is the ability to trap at least 99.97% of particles in the air that are 0.3 microns. HEPA air filters were originally developed by American scientists during WWII as a way to capture radioactive air particles while testing the atom bomb.

HEPA air filters are made of interlaced glass fibers that are tightly woven together. As particles pass through this type of home air filter they are eliminated by diffusion, direct impaction, interception or sieving.

HEPA air filters are great for families that deal with asthma, allergies or respiratory illness, but the price may be a bit high if you’re on a budget.

What AC Filter Types Are Right for Your Home?

You’ve now got a firm grasp on the different air filter types. All this brings us back around to the question, what HVAC filter types are right for your home? Which type of air filter is best for your home is a personal choice that’s based on multiple factors:

Budget

Some types of furnace filters cost more than others. Since air filters need to be replaced regularly, your budget is a top consideration. While you may be used to paying less for filters, know that you could be getting more by paying more.

Read More: Here’s Why (And When) More Expensive Air Filter Are Worth It

Outdoor Air Quality

Since about 25% of outdoor air pollution gets indoors, the air quality outside heavily impacts the air quality inside and the types of particles that need to be removed. If your city has poor outdoor air quality, you’ll want to purchase filters with a larger surface area and a higher MERV rating to capture more of those pollutants.

Read More: U.S. Cities with the Worst Air Quality

Current Indoor Air Quality

What you do in your home can influence your indoor air quality even more than the outdoor air quality. For example, if there are pets in the home, there will be higher levels of dander. If anyone smokes inside there will be additional toxins and particles in the air. Cooking a lot on a stove can emit gases. Always consider what happens in the house to find the best air filter MERV rating and additional features

Family Health

The health of family members in the home should always come first. If anyone is susceptible to allergies, has asthma or another known respiratory problem, start with a pleated MERV 13 filter to achieve maximum filtration within the confines of a standard HVAC system. A HEPA air filter could be worth the added expense, though that may require new equipment.

At Filterbuy you’ll find a wide variety of pleated furnace filter sizes and MERV ratings that are appropriate for homes and businesses. We’re guaranteed to have an air filter type that works in your home!