4 Types of HVAC Air Filters

Air filters are important air conditioning system components, as they remove impurities from the air that passes through your HVAC system while maintaining airflow. In this blog, McMaster discusses the different types of HVAC air filters.

Flat-Paneled Fiberglass Filters — These filters contain layered fiberglass and metal reinforcing grates, and are typically disposable. Due to their low Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating—the higher the rating, the more effective the filtration—flat-paneled fiberglass filters only filter large particles such as pet hair and carpet fibers. This type of filter is also the most affordable option available.

Pleated Media Filters — Disposable pleated media filters usually have a higher MERV rating. Instead of flat panels, they feature pleated filtering media that increases the surface area, making them more efficient. In most cases, pleated media filters strike a good balance between cost and efficiency, and are usually a step above the washable filters that come with air conditioning units.

HEPA Filters — High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are the highest-rated air filters available. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), HEPA filters are capable of trapping particles as small as 0.3 microns or larger. This means that particles as small as bacteria and tobacco smoke can be trapped using HEPA filters. It should be noted, however, that HEPA filters can also impede airflow, which is why they aren’t recommended for residential systems. Rather, HEPA filters are best used in hospitals and similar public buildings.

Reusable Air Filters — Washable and reusable filters are usually more expensive than their disposable counterparts. It should be noted that, while they do save money on replacement costs, reusable air filters have about the same efficiency as flat-panel fiberglass filters. Therefore, they’re not ideal for homeowners who keep pets indoors. In addition, care must be taken to make sure that reusable air filters are thoroughly dried after washing to prevent mold and mildew growth.

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