Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary in quality and size, and some have specifications that others don't. In most situations we suggest getting the filter your HVAC manufacturer says to pair with your system.

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

A higher value demonstrates the filter can grab smaller particulates. This sounds great, but a filter that stops finer dirt can clog more rapidly, heightening pressure on your equipment. If your equipment isn’t designed to function with this type of filter, it can lower airflow and cause other troubles.

Unless you live in a medical facility, you more than likely don’t require a MERV ranking greater than 13. In fact, many residential HVAC systems are specifically made to work with a filter with a MERV level under 13. Sometimes you will discover 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 stop 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 know, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the added cost.

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

While you could be interested in using a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like putting a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling equipment. It’s highly unrealistic your system was created to run with amount of resistance. If you’re worried about indoor air quality in Canada, think over adding a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works along with your HVAC system.