Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters are different in quality and measurements, and some have features that others don't. In most cases we suggest installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer recommends pairing with your system.

All filters are classified with MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV is short for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher value demonstrates the filter can trap more miniscule substances. This sounds great, but a filter that catches finer dust can become blocked more rapidly, increasing pressure on your system. If your equipment isn’t made to run with this type of filter, it may reduce airflow and cause other problems.

Unless you are in a medical center, you likely don’t have to have a MERV level higher than 13. In fact, most residential HVAC systems are specifically designed to operate with a filter with a MERV ranking lower than 13. Occasionally you will learn that quality systems have been made to operate with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV rating of 5 should get most of the common triggers, such as pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters assert they can catch mold spores, but we recommend having a professional remove mold instead of trying to hide the problem with a filter.

Often the packaging demonstrates how often your filter should be exchanged. In our experience, the accordion-style filters last longer, 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 dirt but may limit your unit’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 installing a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling unit. It’s extremely unlikely your system was made to run with kind of resistance. If you’re concerned about indoor air quality in Livermore, think about getting a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works along with your comfort system.