Which Air Filter is Right for You?

With a wide variety of air filters on the market, we get many questions at Maki Heating and Air about the best ones to use whether it be for air conditioning, heating, or an air filtration system. Because each HVAC unit is different, there isn’t a universal filter type, but we can help you understand the differences between them. 

Use this handy guide to learn the basics and then give us a call to discuss what kind of heating and air system you have and which types of filters are compatible with it. We can also provide a variety of other HVAC services such as HVAC repair or entire HVAC replacement.

Are Furnace Filters and Air Filters the Same Thing?

If your home or business has one central heating and air system, the filter used for providing hot and cold air is one and the same. The filters can usually be found in the same location as the furnace. You should also find a different filter at each vent intake area. Having multiple filters not only cleans the air in your home, making it safer to breathe, but also protects your HVAC system from particles that might damage it. 

Keep in mind that if your home has mini-split systems for heating and air conditioning in a variety of rooms, you likely have more than one filter for each smaller system. These will each need to be replaced at different intervals depending on how often you use those systems. For example, your living room mini-split is likely utilized more often than the one in your guest room, which means it will need to be cleaned and/or changed more frequently. 

Which Air Filter is Right for Your HVAC or Furnace?

MERV Ratings

The acronym MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value; it is a rating system that provides information about the effectiveness of air filters and their ability to trap particles of different sizes. The rating scale uses particle size in comparison with the air filter’s efficiency to provide a particular number. 

Most residential HVAC systems can utilize air filters with MERV ratings between 7 and 13. This is because anything higher than a 7 can typically filter most particles found in homes like mold spores, dust, pet dander, pollen, and smoke. Environments with smaller, more dangerous particles that need to be filtered, like hospitals for example, usually need MERV filters rated at 14 or higher. 

Disposable vs. Reusable Filters

Disposable and reusable filters are typically sold in retail stores so homeowners can replace filters in their HVAC unit themselves. Disposable filters have low MERV ratings (between 1 and 4) and are constructed to protect the heating and air system, rather than to protect the inhabitants of the home from particles in the air. 

A reusable filter is similar in that it is designed to offer protection to the HVAC system itself. In addition, it can be a more economical option since it is able to be washed and reused rather than frequently replaced. Both of these filters are usually made of polyester mesh or fiberglass. 

Pleated and Electrostatic Filters

Pleated filters are commonly used in home HVAC systems because they offer a higher MERV rating, usually between 13 and 16 depending on the level of efficiency selected. The use of pleats made of polyester mesh, fiberglass, or other materials increases the surface area and therefore makes filtration much more effective. 

Electrostatic filters are comparable in filtration, capturing the majority of particles and having MERV ratings around 13-15. They use electrostatic charges to capture particles in the air, hence their name. These two types of filters are excellent choices for home systems.

HEPA Filters

HEPA filters are extremely efficient and can remove MERV particles between 17 and 20 on the rating scale with a 99.7% efficiency. Because of the rate of speed and pressure with which they have to propel air through the filter, these systems are typically free-standing units. 

You can purchase these for your home or office that are separate from your HVAC unit (which doesn’t propel the air hard or fast enough to utilize them). Check out our recent blog post about wildfire smoke for more information on HEPA filtration.

Maki Heating and Air Can Help!

At Maki Heating and Air Conditioning in Sacramento, we can help you figure out which air filter works best for your HVAC system. We can even come install new filters for you to increase air quality and energy efficiency. Simply give us a call at (530) 885-3449 or (916) 782-9242 to schedule an appointment. 

At Maki Electric, Heating and Air, we pride ourselves on being Sacramento’s best, most efficient, reliable HVAC company. We also serve the Sacramento foothills and surrounding areas, and we look forward to helping you with all of your heating and air needs.


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