Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary in quality and measurements, and some have specs that others don't. In most situations we advise using the filter your HVAC manufacturer suggests pairing with your equipment.

All filters are classified with MERV ratings, which range from 1–20. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A larger rating demonstrates the filter can grab more miniscule particulates. This sounds great, but a filter that stops finer dust can clog more quickly, raising pressure on your unit. If your equipment isn’t created to work with this type of filter, it may restrict airflow and create other troubles.

Unless you live in a medical facility, you probably don’t have to have a MERV rating greater than 13. In fact, many residential HVAC units are specifically made to work with a filter with a MERV ranking under 13. Sometimes you will discover that good systems have been engineered to work with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should catch the majority of the common annoyance, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters say they can catch mold spores, but we advise having a professional eliminate mold instead of trying to hide the problem with a filter.

Often the packaging indicates how regularly your filter should be replaced. In our experience, the accordion-style filters hold up better, and are worth the added price.

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

While you could want to use a HEPA filter, know that's like installing a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling system. It’s highly unrealistic your equipment was created to run with amount of resistance. If you’re concerned about indoor air quality in Houston, consider getting a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This product works alongside your heating and cooling system.