What Is an HVAC filter?

An HVAC filter is an air filter that helps capture and trap pollutants such as dust, pet dander, pollen, and sometimes more in your indoor air. An HVAC air filter cleans the air just before it is drawn into your HVAC system. Whether you call it an air filter, furnace filter, or AC filter, they keep these particles from entering the inner workings of your HVAC system to help it run more efficiently. 

Different Types of HVAC Filters

There are 3 main types of HVAC filters.

  1. 1” fiberglass filters - the standard, least expensive option, less efficient at keeping particles out of your HVAC system. Last up to 30 days.
  2. Pleated filters - may still be 1” thick but the pleats help trap more particles so their filtration capabilities are better. Can last up to 90 days. They cost more than fiberglass filters.
  3. Electrostatic filters are pleated air filters that have electrostatically charged fibers to efficiently capture microscopic airborne particles like lint, household dust, mold spores, pollen, pet dander, and more. They cost more than fiberglass filters.

Buying the cheapest filter may not be the best idea for your health and the health of your HVAC system. Higher-quality filters keep out more allergens that can exacerbate allergies and asthma. In addition, a better filter helps your system operate more efficiently, which can save you on repair bills and energy bills.

Understanding the MERV Rating

Minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), is the standard way of rating the efficiency and performance of HVAC filters. A filter’s MERV rating is usually indicated as a number between 1 and 16. Performance above MERV 16 is rated as HEPA performance. A higher MERV rating indicates a more efficient filter, but it also means a more expensive system. Your HVAC professional can recommend the best filters for your current system.

Air Filters vs Whole-House Air Cleaners

In addition to the standard filters, another option is a whole-house air cleaner. These systems are superior to regular air filters at capturing very small particles. They can even help reduce contaminants such as bacteria and viruses. 

American Standard offers 2 air purification systems- the QuikBox™ Whole House Air Cleaner and AccuClean® Whole-Home Air Cleaner.

QuikBox Whole House Air Cleaner

The QuikBox™ Whole House Air Cleaner has a lot to offer if indoor air quality is a concern. Some features:

  • Up to 20 times more effective at filtering out pollutants than a standard 1” HVAC filter.
  • MERV 11 or 13
  • Filters last up to 6 months.
  • Suitable for homes up to 4,500 sq. ft. in size

A whole-house air cleaner or air purifier will cost more than standard filters but will provide you with better indoor air quality for your whole house, eliminating the need for portable appliances.

AccuClean® Whole-Home Air Cleaner

The AccuClean® Whole-Home Air Cleaner takes air purification even further. Some features to consider:

While the systems can greatly reduce contaminants such as viruses and bacteria, they cannot completely remove them.

When to Change or Clean Your HVAC Air Filter

Regular HVAC filter replacement and maintenance is crucial to the health of your air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace. Clogged filters can make even the most well-engineered system struggle to heat and cool your home. 

When to change (or clean) your HVAC filter will depend on the type of filter, the system you have, and if you have an air purification system.

Some general guidelines:

  • Replace a standard 1” fiberglass filter every 30 days in heavy use or in a home with pets.
  • Replace a pleated filter every 90 days or sooner in pollen season, wildfire season, or in a home with pets.
  • Change the QuikBox® filter every 6 months.
  • Vacuum the AccuClean® reusable filter as indicated by the unit. See the owner’s manual for details. 
  • If you have a single-zone mini-split or multi-zone ductless system, clean the reusable filters as directed in the owner’s manual, or ask your HVAC installer to show you how to do it. These filters can last as long as 10 years when cared for properly.

Consider signing up for a filter subscription service to make sure you have an extra replacement filter when you need it. There are a variety of HVAC filter sizes to accommodate your particular system. Before ordering new filters, make a note of the measurements that are listed on your current filter and order the same size.

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