Air Filters – Your Complete Buying Guide

Air filters are very important components of any HVAC system and all air conditioners will simply not work without one. Filters are used to eliminate air particles like dust, pollen, mold, smoke, debris and odors from the air being let to circulate into the house. Maintaining a clean indoor air quality is very vital for any business and homeowner. Pollutants like dust, debris and other particles can cause various health issues including respiratory conditions and allergic reactions. Filters simply remove and/or prevent such particles from entering the main ventilation system and polluting indoor air quality. There are different types of filters made from various materials. Some of the common types include the following;


Mechanical filters – They use mechanical means to trap dust and large particles from the air. Mechanical filters are the most common and also the cheapest. They require frequent maintenance and replacement.

Electronic filters – They use electricity and electrostatics to trap small particles like pollen, smoke and mould. Electronic filters are the most expensive and also the most effective.

Pleated filters – Have more fiber density than mechanical filters. They therefore trap smaller particles and are more effective. Fiber density is the amount of fiber present per square inch. Filters can be made of synthetic fibers or polyester.

HEPA filters – Are advanced filters that are made of randomly arranged fibers capable of trapping very small air particles. High efficiency particulate filters can trap particles as small as 0.3 micrometers.

Media filters – Media pads are mostly used in HVAC systems due to their high capacity to trap dust particles. They can be pre-cut or bulk roll and are more effective than fiberglass filters. The pads are usually made of dry-tack polyester.

Washable filters – As the name suggests, these filters can be washed and refit for continued use.
There are many other distinctions in air filters including activated carbon filters and fiberglass panels. The type you chose depends on your air conditioner system.

Considerations to Make Before Buying

There are several different air filters available in the market today and choosing the right one may become a little bit overwhelming. However, good filters have distinctive characteristics. These are the specific attributes to look for and on which your purchase decision should be based on. There are basic features to identify including type of AC system you have, size of the filter, material used and MERV rating. Although all these aspects are very important, MERV rating is the main consideration to make. This rating is usually specified on the filter and it basically represents the particle size that specific filter will trap. MER 7 air filters will generally trap larger particles and are suitable for buildings that have average to good air quality. MERV 8 traps slightly smaller particles like dust, pollen and pet odors. They are perfect for families that have pets and kids. MERV 11 is the finest rating and such filters will trap very small particles including smoke, pollens, mold and dust. They are suitable for people who live in areas that have a high level of air contamination like dusty and mold infested surroundings. These filters are also perfect for those who have chronic respiratory problems and allergies. Ensure the air filter you buy fits into the space and is made of the right material depending on your situation.


Air Filter Maintenance

Since air conditioning systems draw in air and circulate it back in a cleaner form, the filters usually end up trapping a lot of dust particles. Continued accumulation makes the filters dirty and less efficient. To keep supplying the same amount of clean air, your AC will be forced to work much harder which means consuming more energy. Air conditioners are also mechanical components which make them susceptible to breakdowns, especially when they are struggling. It is therefore important to take good care of the AC system and one of the tasks involves air filter maintenance. Depending on the type of filter, you can maintain it for a long period of time by conducting frequent cleaning and assessment of the entire system. There are a number of ways in which air filters can be maintained and kept at optimal functioning status. From vacuuming to washing and system cleaning, good air quality can only be supplied by clean systems. To maintain your air filter, the following actions are helpful;

  • Perform frequent cleaning. This involves removing the filter and wiping off dust and debris particles. You can shake, vacuum or tap it to remove particles that have penetrated past the surface. Some filters can also be washed and you can check for that provision. Generally, cleaning the air filter at least once every month is recommendable although you can do it more times provided that does not compromise its ability to filter air particles.
  • Clean the AC system. Filters are there to trap particles from the air drawn in by the AC system. It is therefore wise to clean the entire system by removing debris and leaves from surrounding areas. Remove unwanted particles from condensation chambers and AC cooling systems.

Filters may sometimes fail to work even when they are clean. The first thing to do is to remove and inspect it for dirt, debris and other particles. If it is clean but not working, it could be a problem with the fit. Filters that do not fit in the filtering space may allow air to go round them rather than through them. If the fit is perfect and your air quality is still poor, seek professional assistance from HVAC system installers.

Replacing Air Filters

When replacing filters, buy new ones, remove the old ones, clean the AC system and fit-in the new filters. Air filters are to be replaced every 3 to 4 months although electrostatic filters can last for 6 months before replacement. However, you may be forced to replace them sooner depending on your use and where you stay. People living in dusty surroundings like roadsides and near intense activity sites may need to replace their air filters more frequently than those in calm suburban settings. This is also the same case if your AC runs longer or if you are using it more often.

Finding air filters should not be daunting once you know the exact item to look for since they exist in many outlets for homes and businesses.