Pros and Cons of Different Types of HVAC Air Filters

Types of HVAC Air Filters

Indoor air quality is an important element for any homeowner. Getting the right air filter for your home can make the difference between air filled with pollutants and air that is clean, healthy and easy to breathe. There are many types of HVAC air filters available. Let’s explore the different air filter types for homes so you can choose the best that will improve your indoor air quality.

What do HVAC filters do?

Air filters screen out any particles coming through the HVAC system, which can include tiny bits of many materials, some of them microscopic. Home-air pollutants are generally some kind of particulate matter, like mold, dust, pollen and germs but sometimes they also take gaseous form.

What is the ideal MERV rating?

Air filters are rated by their Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, or MERV, rating. This number rates the effectiveness of an air filter and ranges from 1 to 20. For most homes, a residential central air conditioner typically use filters in a range from 5 to 8. If you feel you need a higher rating for respiratory reasons, you can go as high as 12. Anything above that is typically used in industries that require carefully controlled environments like hospitals, laboratories, and manufacturing facilities. For your home, a very high MERV rating is inefficient because they are so tightly woven. This restricts airflow and can make your system work harder, costing you more money in the long run.

What are the different types of HVAC filters?

Let’s look at the most popular types of HVAC air filters.

HEPA filters

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are those with a MERV rating of 16 or higher. Most homes don’t need this level of filtering. However, they are able to remove at least 99.97% of airborne allergens and pollutants, including mold spores and dust that are as small as 0.3 microns. 

  • Pros: Very effective at purifying the air. The design of these filters makes it ideal for capturing larger pollutants, like pet dander and pollen. These filters are also fairly cost-effective and only need to be changed every few years.
  • Cons: These filters must be adjusted specifically to your HVAC system. As good as they are, fumes, gasses and odors are too small for HEPA filters. Pollutants like mold spores may settle on the filter itself, reducing its effectiveness and likely requiring replacement sooner than expected. And they are a higher investment initially.

UV light filters

Ultra Violet, or UV filters use short-wave ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and viruses. When air passes through the HVAC unit, the UV lamps disinfect it with germicidal radiation. UV filters are excellent for killing microorganisms that could be hazardous to your health, including mold spores.

  • Pros: The UV light used in these filters is able to kill tough pollutants like mold and germs. This gives you indoor air quality to help prevent diseases and respiratory illnesses.
  • Cons: First they are costly to install and must be done by a professional. Plus they are unable to rid the air of more common pollutants, like dust or allergens. They’re also ineffective against gases, fumes and cigarette smoke. Plus UV filters can transform oxygen into ozone, which can be hazardous to your health. 

Electrostatic filters

Electrostatic filters use cotton and paper fibers to create static that acts as a magnet for dust and other airborne particles. The magnetism is strong enough that it keeps these particles from spreading throughout your home, making them one of the best choices for those who need a filter that can combat allergens.

  • Pros: These filters are some of the most cost-effective options on the market and are great at improving your indoor air quality. They are available as disposable as well as reusable. When it comes time to change the filters, you can decide whether to wash and reuse them or toss them and get brand new ones.
  • Cons: While this filter handles smaller pollutants, they aren’t as effective against larger pollutants such as dust or mold spores. This makes electrostatic filters a poor choice for people who have respiratory issues.

Washable filters

Washable filters are an environmentally friendly way to save money. You may pay more for this type of air filter for HVAC systems, but it is most likely the only filter you will ever have to buy. You can wash and reuse the filter again instead of buying new ones every few months.

  • Pros: You only need to buy a washable HVAC air filter once. and it will likely last for the life span of your HVAC system. This makes washable filters extremely cost-effective and helps reduce waste.
  • Cons: Washable filters need to be maintained properly to ensure they work as they should. You need to remove and wash the filter and let it completely dry before putting it back into the equipment. If you insert a wet or damp filter, it will grow mildew and mold making your indoor air quality worse.

Pleated filters

Pleated air filters are typically more efficient than flat and washable filters. It is made of a disposable polyester-cotton blend paper and has a MERV rating between five and 13. These filters are able to remove nearly 100% of the large particles. It’s greater surface area and density helps trap smaller particles of pollen, bacteria, pet dander and mold.

  • Pros: It is one of the best options when it comes to trapping debris. Their larger surface area and tighter weave does a good job of filtering the most debris but they do get full and clog faster. Pleated filters also last longer, requiring fewer replacements, and the used filters can be recycled.
  • Cons: The only downside to pleated filters is their cost. They’re some of the more expensive options on the market. However, they’re also a great way to get your money’s worth.

Media filters

Media filters have more benefits than standard filters with high MERV ratings. The larger surface area of media filters provide the same level of filtration as a high-MERV filter, but they do it without affecting airflow or static pressure.

  • Pros: These filters are low maintenance, needing to be changed once or twice a year. Their increased surface area enables them to trap pollutants rather than sending them back into the air.
  • Cons: Media filters likely need to be professionally installed. They are ineffective when it comes to filtering odors.

Which air filter is right for you?

If you are not sure which filter you should get, we can help. Contact Lakeside Oil and we will provide maintenance for your system and help you choose the air filter that makes the air in your home clean and healthy.