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Which Air Filter Should I Choose?

Selecting the right filter for your Trane, Rheem or other AC unit or furnace can reduce electric bills by as much as 15% and improve air quality within your home. During peak usage, a clogged AC or furnace filter can raise a $200 electric bill to as much as $280, according to one study. Instead of paying the additional $80 and putting added strain on your system, a simple solution is to select the right air filter, at a cost of $10-15.

While the options may seem overwhelming, choosing the best air filter is simple when you understand a few key factors.

Air Filter Size Matters

An ill-fitting air or furnace filter can allow pollutants into your home, reduce the effectiveness of your system and increase electric bills. Debris entering the vents around a filter can also damage an HVAC system, resulting in system failure that could cost hundreds in repair bills.

Air filters can be easily ordered by the number printed on an existing product, or you can measure the actual size of the opening where the filter is installed to determine the ‘nominal’ filter size you need. If the nominal size you need isn’t readily available at your local hardware store or online, you will need to order a custom size to ensure a proper fit.

It’s important to never force fit a filter that is too big, or allow air flow around a filter that is too small, as either can result in reduced efficiency.

Which Material Should You Use?

Air filters are available in a variety of materials. Selecting the best material for your home depends largely on if you have pets, what type of climate you live in, respiratory conditions, and general home cleanliness. Understanding the characteristics and MERV rating of each material can help you select the best one for your home.

• Fiberglass (MERV: 2-3) is a commonly used material, but these inexpensive filters allow more pollutants to pass into the system than other materials. FilterBuy does not sell or recommend fiberglass filters due to their low MERV rating and inefficiency.
• Polyester/cotton pleated (MERV: 6) disposable air filters are an affordable option and provide average cleaning and removal of small particles, as long as they are replaced frequently.
• Electrostatic cotton and paper (MERV: 10) provides excellent filtering properties with regular replacement. They are more expensive, but are a good option for homes with pets or smokers.
• Permanent, washable filters (MERV: 8) are an affordable and environmentally friendly choice, but they may not be able to capture microscopic particles and must be cleaned frequently. FilterBuy does not sell or recommend washable filters due to their inefficiency.
• High efficiency pleated (MERV: 14-16) air filters are the most expensive but they provide exceptional filtering capabilities and system protection. They are generally used most often in hospitals, but people with respiratory diseases may benefit from them in their homes. Due to the thickness and air pressure needs, they cannot be installed in all systems.

What Are MERV Ratings?

MERV ratings measure the efficiency and effectiveness of air filters at capturing particles in the air. MERV ratings range from 1 to 16, with 16 providing the highest filtration. FilterBuy offers products with MERV ratings of MERV 6 (Bronze), MERV 8 (Silver), MERV 11 (Gold) and MERV 13 (Platinum), which are appropriate for most homes and higher than most original equipment manufacturer (OEM) products. Since Filterbuy no longer sells these types of filters, reword the sentence to say, “We generally do not recommend HEPA filters in homes, as they can strain most HVAC systems that are not set up to work with them.

OEM or Aftermarket Air Filter?

An OEM furnace filter is made by the company that also made your HVAC system, while aftermarket air filters are manufactured by specialized third-party companies. Generally, both sources offer the right size air filter for your system, while after market manufacturers, such as FilterBuy, add extra features like odor blocking, higher MERV ratings and easier-to-replace designs. Top-quality after market filters manufactured by FilterBuy are also generally more affordable and they last longer.

How Much Does Brand Matter?

Different brands will offer different ranges of MERV ratings and filter sizes. More importantly, not all filters are built equal – the quality of the filter materials determines how long the product lasts and how consistent it is in performance. Finally, you want to buy from companies that maximize benefits for customers through fast shipping and strong customer service.

If you’re comparing brands, check out our guides below:

Still not sure which furnace filter is best for you? Contact FilterBuy today and let one of our knowledgeable sales representatives help you choose the best air filter for your lifestyle, needs and budget.

About the author

Alice Instone-Brewer

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