Air Filters: 5 Things You Should Know About Them

Posted On: June 06, 2013

Almost all forced-air heating and cooling systems include an air filter to protect their components from dust and dirt in the air. If you make good maintenance choices with respect to the air filter, it will also improve your home’s air quality and save you money by helping your heating and cooling system run efficiently. Air filters need to be changed regularly or they will become clogged with dust and debris. This creates a lot of resistance to airflow and will strain your air handler. If it cannot supply enough airflow to your heating or cooling system, they will work inefficiently or not at all. How often air filters need to be changed depends on your household conditions, such as heating and cooling system usage and the presence of pets. Most one-inch thick filters need to be changed every two to three months.

While changing air filters regularly is the most important thing, here are five others things you should know:

  1. The minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) tells you how efficient an air filter is at removing particles from the air. A higher MERV means the air filter removes more (and smaller) particles from the air that passes through it.
  2. The air filter with the higher MERV is not necessarily the best choice for your home. An air filter with a higher MERV will also have higher resistance to airflow. The ideal MERV of an air filter for most homes is between 8 and 11, though your trusted HVAC technician can help you find the right one for your particular system.
  3. You should not use a HEPA filter with your central HVAC system without significant system modifications. While a HEPA filter will offer the highest MERV, it’s obstruction to airflow will be too great for a residential system to handle.
  4. You should not vacuum or wash dirty filters (with some exceptions). They need to be replaced.
  5. You should make sure your filter fits snugly but doesn’t have to be forced in. The nominal dimensions of the appropriately sized filter should be listed on your old air filter.

If you would like more advice on air filters or any other heating or cooling related topics, please contact us at Ernst Heating & Cooling. We’ve been providing superior HVAC services to the Metro-East area since 1954.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Hamel, Alton, Glen Carbon, Highland, Greenville, and Troy, Illinois and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about air filters and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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