Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters differ in quality and measurements, and some have features that others don't. In most instances we recommend installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer says to pair with your equipment.

All filters are assigned MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV is short for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher value indicates the filter can catch more miniscule particulates. This sounds great, but a filter that traps finer dust can become blocked faster, raising pressure on your unit. If your equipment isn’t made to run with this kind of filter, it can lower airflow and cause other problems.

Unless you live in a medical center, you likely don’t have to have a MERV level greater than 13. In fact, many residential HVAC units are specifically engineered to run with a filter with a MERV rating lower than 13. Frequently you will learn that quality systems have been engineered to operate with a MERV rating of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV rating of 5 should trap most of the daily annoyance, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters say they can catch mold spores, but we recommend having a professional get rid of mold as opposed to trying to hide the issue with a filter.

Usually the packaging indicates how often your filter should be changed. From what we know, the accordion-style filters hold up better, and are worth the additional cost.

Filters are manufactured from differing materials, with disposable fiberglass filters being standard. Polyester and pleated filters catch more dirt but may limit your system’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you might be interested in using a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like adding a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling equipment. It’s highly doubtful your unit was designed to run with amount of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality. This unit works along with your HVAC system.