Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters differ in quality and measurements, and some have specs that others don't. In most cases we recommend getting the filter your HVAC manufacturer suggests pairing with your equipment.

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

A higher ranking indicates the filter can catch smaller particles. This sounds great, but a filter that catches finer dirt can become blocked faster, increasing pressure on your system. If your system isn’t designed to run with this model of filter, it might lower airflow and cause other issues.

Unless you are in a medical center, you probably don’t need a MERV level greater than 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC equipment is specifically made to run with a filter with a MERV ranking below 13. Occasionally you will discover that good systems have been made to operate with a MERV ranking of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should catch many daily nuisances, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters assert they can stop mold spores, but we advise having a professional get rid of mold rather than trying to mask the trouble with a filter.

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

Filters are made from different materials, with disposable fiberglass filters being most typical. Polyester and pleated filters grab more dust but may decrease your equipment’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you might tempted to use a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like installing a MERV 16 filter in your HVAC system. It’s extremely unrealistic your unit was created to work with kind of resistance. If you’re concerned about indoor air quality in Denver, think about installing a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works in tandem with your HVAC system.