How to Choose the Right AC Filter

A women sneezing

We all know we can’t beat our Florida heat without a well-running AC system. But what most don’t know is how important AC filters are to their systems and their home comfort. Finding the right AC filter can have a huge impact on air quality and the efficiency of your unit. An optimal AC filter will trap particles that can be harmful to your health and even save you money on your electric bill. What should you look for in an AC filter? We’ve compiled some options and important factors to consider when finding the right AC filter for you. 

Types of AC Filters 

There’s a wide variety of AC filters on the market. The most popular options are fiberglass, pleated, and HEPA filters. Fiberglass filters are a top choice for homeowners because they are cost-efficient. Chances are that you’ve seen one—these sturdy filters are made up of fiberglass layers within a metal grate. They do a great job filtering out large particles and other contaminants. They’re also easy to find, install, and generally affordable. However, some homeowners don’t like that you have to replace them on a regular basis, usually around once per month. 

Pleated filters are considered higher quality than fiberglass filters, and typically cost more. This is because they last longer, and because they can capture finer particles in the air, including allergens. Most pleated filters need to be replaced around every 6 months.

If you’re looking for something more top-of-the-line to purify the air in your home, you can invest in a HEPA filter. These industrial-grade filters are rarely seen in homes but are important to those who are sensitive to lower air quality. At their peak performance, these filters capture anywhere between 97-99.97% of airborne particles. However, not all HEPA filters are “true” HEPA filters, therefore, potential buyers should read the manufacturer’s specifications to make sure they’re genuine. 

AC Filter Qualities

Selecting the best filter for you depends on a myriad of factors, including your preferences and lifestyle. For example, HEPA filters can be beneficial for those who suffer from severe allergies and asthma. Though HEPA filters are expensive, there are affordable AC filters specifically made to filter out pet hair and dander. Others can trap small particles and other asthma triggers. Finding a filter for your needs can significantly increase your quality of life. 

You should also ensure you’re using the correct size filter for your AC system. Using an incorrectly sized AC filter can reduce your unit’s efficiency and ability to filter airborne particles. Make sure to consult your HVAC manual or your AC maintenance technician when determining the correct AC filter size for your unit. 

MERV Rating

When choosing an AC filter, another factor to consider is its MERV rating. MERV ratings, or the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, rank filters on a scale of 1-16. This number indicates how well the filter is designed to hold contaminants under the least efficient conditions. 

MERV 1-4: On the lower end, fiberglass, disposable panel, and washable metal/synthetic filters tend to have a MERV rating around 1-4. Filters with this rating will clear out pollen, dust mites, and carpet fibers. 

MERV 5-8: Pleated filters rank between 5-8, which is close to the default choice for most systems (6-8). These do a better job of catching smaller particles and allergens to improve air quality.

MERV 9-16: More advanced, industrial filters, such as extended pleated and electronic filters, will rank between 9-12 and 13-16, respectively. Filters within an 8-13 range will filter out fumes, smoke and smog. 

It’s critical to avoid selecting an AC filter with a MERV rating that is too high for your unit. While you may want to buy one with a higher MERV rating and filtration efficiency, it can end up being an unnecessary and costly expense. For perspective, hospitals and operating rooms use MERV 14-20 filters because of their ability to filter bacteria and viruses. With this in mind, finding a balance between energy efficiency and filter efficiency is key.

Questions? Call AC Designs

There’s plenty to consider when choosing the right AC filter. Knowing what types of filters are available, their quality, and MERV rating is essential. But it all boils down to finding what best suits your home, budget, and individual needs. We pride ourselves on being Jacksonville’s premier AC and HVAC maintenance company, and we’re happy to work with you to determine which filters and systems work best for your home. Schedule an appointment with the indoor air quality specialists at AC Designs today.