Are all HVAC air filters the same?

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

All filters are assigned MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher rating indicates the filter can grab smaller particulates. This sounds great, but a filter that catches finer dust can become blocked more rapidly, raising pressure on your system. If your unit isn’t designed to work with this model of filter, it could decrease airflow and create other troubles.

Unless you live in a hospital, you more than likely don’t need a MERV rating greater than 13. In fact, many residential HVAC systems are specifically made to operate with a filter with a MERV ranking below 13. Frequently you will find that good systems have been made to run with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV ranking of 5 should get many common triggers, like pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to stop mold spores, but we advise having a professional remove mold as opposed to trying to hide the problem with a filter.

Usually the packaging shows how often your filter should be exchanged. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the additional price.

Filters are made from differing materials, with one-use fiberglass filters being standard. Polyester and pleated filters catch more dirt but may reduce your equipment’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you might 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 unit was created to handle that amount of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in Jacksonville, consider adding a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works alongside your HVAC system.