Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary in quality and size, and some have features that others don't. In most situations we suggest using the filter your HVAC manufacturer suggests pairing with your system.

All filters are assigned MERV ratings, which go from 1–20. MERV means minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher ranking demonstrates the filter can grab smaller particulates. This sounds great, but a filter that stops finer dust can clog faster, heightening pressure on your equipment. If your equipment isn’t designed to run with this type of filter, it can lower airflow and cause other issues.

Unless you live in a medical center, you more than likely don’t have to have a MERV ranking higher than 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC systems are specifically engineered to work with a filter with a MERV ranking under 13. Sometimes you will learn that quality systems have been engineered to work with a MERV rating of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should catch the majority of the everyday nuisances, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to trap mold spores, but we recommend having a professional get rid of mold rather than trying to conceal the issue with a filter.

Sometimes the packaging indicates how frequently your filter should be changed. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters last longer, and are worth the additional cost.

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

While you may be interested in using a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like putting a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling unit. It’s extremely doubtful your system was designed to work with level of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in Canada, think about adding a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works along with your HVAC system.