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 cases we advise installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer says to pair with your unit.

All filters have MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A larger ranking indicates the filter can trap smaller particles. This sounds great, but a filter that catches finer substances can clog faster, heightening pressure on your unit. If your equipment isn’t made to run with this type of filter, it could restrict airflow and lead to other issues.

Unless you are in a medical center, you more than likely don’t need a MERV rating greater than 13. In fact, many residential HVAC units are specifically engineered to run with a filter with a MERV level under 13. Sometimes you will discover that quality systems have been made to run with a MERV ranking of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV ranking of 5 should get the majority of the everyday annoyance, such as pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters say they can stop mold spores, but we recommend having a professional remove mold instead of trying to hide the trouble with a filter.

Often the packaging shows how regularly your filter should be exchanged. In our experience, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the additional price.

Filters are created from different materials, with one-use fiberglass filters being the most common. Polyester and pleated filters catch more debris but may decrease your system’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you might tempted to use a HEPA filter, know that's like putting a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling system. It’s highly unlikely your system was designed to handle that level of resistance. If you’re worried about indoor air quality in Fort Lauderdale, think about getting a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works in tandem with your HVAC system.