How to Pick the Right Air Filter For Your Home

Choosing the right air filter for your HVAC is important. Here are some things you should know before picking out a suitable air filter.

Let’s start with measurements.

Check the slot for your filter in your furnace. When you measure the size, make sure to get the length, width and depth measurements. For example, your filter could be 12”x30”x1”. This means that your filter is 12 inches long, 30 inches wide and 1 inch deep. You can either make these measurements with a tape measure, or you can simply copy the measurements from the old filter that is already in your furnace.


What’s a MERV rating?

For starters, MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It measures how effective the air filter is at capturing particles. MERV ratings are used on a scale of 1-20. The lower the rating, the less particles the filter will catch from the air.

If you have a higher MERV rating, it will catch more particles, but will restrict the amount of airflow. Deciding which MERV rating is best for you will depend on the kind of air quality you prefer and how much particles you want the filter to catch vs. how much airflow you want. If you prioritize energy efficiency, a lower MERV rating will work. Because it prevents your system from capturing as many particles and allows more airflow, you will need to replace it more often.


How to decide what your indoor air quality needs are.

Heavy carpeting, fragrances, adhesives and wood preservatives will all let off organic compounds that pollute the air in your home. If your home falls under the category of any of these, consider a higher MERV rating to protect your system and the air.


If you live by construction sites, large factories or rural farming areas, the air around your home is more polluted than in other areas. This means that you will have more pollution inside as well.


If you have pets, asthma, allergies or smoke, you will breathe easier with a higher MERV rating air filter. It is best to stay at a MERV rating of 8 or higher if you or any household members struggle with allergies or asthma.


Whenever you are deciding on a higher MERV rating for your system, check with an HVAC professional to make sure that your furnace can adjust properly to the reduced amount of airflow.


Finally, choose your filter type.

Fiberglass Filters: Usually the least expensive and have the lowest MERV ratings. (Will need to be replaced more often.)

Pleated Filters: These filters have moderate to high MERV ratings. IMPORTANT- Check with a professional before getting a filter with a higher MERV rating. The reduced amount of airflow can lead to damages if your system can not handle it. If you find that your system can not handle a higher MERV rating, there are other solutions to improve your indoor air quality.

HEPA Filters: These filters have the highest MERV ratings and are used in hospitals and medical facilities. These kinds of filters are not suitable for residential HVAC systems.


Choosing the right filter has a lot of components to think about. If you need help deciding what filter is best for your home, contact an HVAC professional today at 515-965-7272.

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