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 assigned MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV means minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher value demonstrates the filter can trap smaller particles. This sounds great, but a filter that traps finer dust can become obstructed faster, increasing pressure on your equipment. If your equipment isn’t made to function with this type of filter, it can reduce airflow and cause other problems.

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

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

Often the packaging demonstrates how often your filter should be changed. In our experience, the accordion-style filters last longer, and are worth the additional expense.

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

While you could tempted to use a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like adding a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling unit. It’s extremely unlikely your equipment 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 heating and cooling system.