Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary in quality and dimensions, and some have features that others don't. In most situations we recommend getting the filter your HVAC manufacturer recommends pairing with your system.

All filters have MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV means minimum efficiency reporting value.

A bigger rating demonstrates the filter can grab more miniscule substances. This sounds great, but a filter that stops finer substances can clog more rapidly, raising pressure on your equipment. If your system isn’t designed to run with this model of filter, it might lower airflow and lead to other problems.

Unless you live in a hospital, you likely don’t need a MERV level above 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC equipment is specifically designed to run with a filter with a MERV ranking lower than 13. Occasionally you will learn that decent systems have been engineered to work with a MERV ranking of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV rating of 5 should get most of the common triggers, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to catch mold spores, but we advise having a professional get rid of mold as opposed to trying to hide the issue with a filter.

Often the packaging demonstrates how often your filter should be changed. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the added expense.

Filters are created from differing materials, with single-use 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 may want to use a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like installing a MERV 16 filter in your comfort equipment. It’s highly unlikely your unit was made to handle that amount of resistance. If you’re concerned about indoor air quality in Rochester, think about adding a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works alongside your heating and cooling system.