Most of us know that changing out our air filters is important – but why? What are they for? How often should they be replaced? What types should we use?
We at My Guy Heating & Air understand that figuring this all out can be overwhelming, so we’ve broken it down for you. Keep reading to learn more about air filters and air quality, and why these things should matter to you!
What’s the big deal about air filters?
HVAC filters do exactly as their name says: filter your air.
This is why they’re so important. They filter out large and small particles of air pollutants such as:
- Hair and animal fur
- Tobacco smoke
You usually can’t see these irritants, but having them enter your home isn’t good for your health. Especially if you or a family member struggles with allergies or respiratory issues like asthma.
Even if you don’t already deal with these issues, polluting your air quality over time can still cause permanent lung damage.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you, then you should also know that neglecting to replace your air filters can also hurt your wallet.
If you let your air filters clog up, debris can make its way to fan motors, which are what keeps the air moving in your home. If your fan motors have to work harder, then not only does that use up more energy, which can increase your bill, but it can also damage your ac system or cause it to burn out as a whole.
When this happens, you’ll need to contact a qualified HVAC technician to help you either locate the problem or replace your entire system, which can get expensive fast.
What different types exist?
Before we get into the different types of air filters, let’s go over some background information.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) introduced Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) standards.
The minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) system was created by ASHRAE to measure indoor air quality between different filters. MERVs report how well a filter can catch particles between 0.3 and 10 microns (µm).
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the higher the MERV rating the better the filter is at trapping specific types of particles.
You’ll see these acronyms (MERV and IAQ) often when searching for air filters, so it’s best to know what they mean beforehand.
The most common types of air filters include:
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are usually the most expensive filters out there, but they’re also the most effective. The EPA states that HEPA filters can clear at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and other airborne particles.
HEPA filters are best for people with respiratory issues, pets, or indoor smokers. A true HEPA filter has a MERV scale of 11, which is considered medium air quality. But this is usually a good enough rating for most HVAC systems. A higher rating can be too much for your system to handle.
These are the most common types of filters. They’re disposable, the least expensive, and don’t force your HVAC system to work as hard as usual. For these reasons, they’re usually the lowest on the MERV scale at around 4 or less.
Fiberglass filters get the job done, but if you’re more sensitive to air quality, and don’t see yourself changing them every month as you should, then it might be best to invest in a higher quality filter.
If you’re looking for a middle ground between HEPA and fiberglass, pleated filters are a great choice. They’re a bit more expensive than fiberglass filters because they can filter out smaller particles. They’re not as effective as HEPA filters, but their MERV rating is usually between 5 to 8, which makes them the next best option.
How often should they be replaced?
According to the air specialists at Energy Star, you should change your filters once a month during heavy use months like winter and summer, and every 3 months at the minimum.
Higher quality air filters, like HEPA, can last you longer, usually around 24 to 36 months.
What types of filters do you use for ductless ac?
So far, the filters mentioned are best for central ac systems. But what if you have a ductless mini-split system?
For the most part, everything mentioned still applies.
Ductless systems also use MERV ratings, but instead of there being many different types of filters to choose from, there are more brands designed for specific models.
A few of the most common brands include Mitsubishi, Panasonic, and LG.
But just like HVAC filters, if you don’t replace your ductless filters, you risk polluting your air quality and damaging your system.
The main difference, however, is that ductless filters need to be replaced annually versus monthly. Also, ductless filters can be cleaned with a cloth or soap and water, which makes them cost-effective and convenient. Washable HVAC filters are not as common nowadays.
Other ways to improve air quality
If you’re looking to improve your air quality even more, then all you need is a little diligence.
The easiest, most cost-effective way is by cleaning dust and pollen that collects on your beds, curtains, rugs, and carpets with a vacuum. This is especially important if you have pets.
If you want to be extra thorough, you can even invest in a vacuum that has a HEPA filter.
Another option that saves you money long-term is to receive regular maintenance on your HVAC or ductless systems. Dust and debris gather in all vents and ducts, so it’s important to have a specialist evaluate your systems to make sure they are providing fresh, clean air.
Whether you’re looking for general advice on how to choose a filter, or need someone to check the health of your system, My Guy Heating & Air would be happy to help. Contact us to find out ways to improve the air quality of your home today!