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 getting the filter your HVAC manufacturer suggests pairing with your unit.

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

A bigger rating demonstrates the filter can trap smaller particulates. This sounds great, but a filter that stops finer dust can clog more quickly, raising pressure on your unit. If your unit isn’t designed to work with this type of filter, it can restrict airflow and lead to other issues.

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

All filters with a MERV ranking of 5 should catch many daily annoyance, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters say they can catch mold spores, but we suggest having a professional get rid of mold instead of trying to hide the trouble with a filter.

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

Filters are manufactured from different materials, with single-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 may want to use a HEPA filter, know that's like adding a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling system. It’s extremely unrealistic your equipment was designed to work 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 comfort system.