Complete Guide To Air Filters

HVAC Air Filter

In today’s world, where the air we breathe is not as clean as it used to be, many people are turning to HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems to make the air in their homes and offices healthier. These systems consist of different parts and use various technologies, but one super important piece is the air filter. Air filters are like the superheroes of HVAC systems, making sure the air that comes through is clean and safe. They come in all shapes and sizes, made from different materials, and with different efficiency ratings. To choose the right air filters for your place, it’s important to know how they work.

This guide is here to help you understand what air filters are, what their benefits are, how to pick the right one based on efficiency ratings, the different materials they are made from, and more. Let’s jump right in and explore everything you need to know about air filters for a breath of fresh air at home or work!

What is an Air Filter?

An air filter is an important part of HVAC systems, and its main job is to clean the air we breathe. It works like a protective screen that holds tiny particles, pollutants, and microorganisms. This way, it makes sure that the air circulating around you is safe and doesn’t carry any harmful stuff. So, in simple terms, an air filter helps to keep the air in your home healthier by taking out the things that could be bad for you.

Benefits of Air Filters

Benefits of Air Filters
  • Improved Air Quality: Air filters do a great job of making the air inside your home better. They catch tiny things like dust, pollen, and pet fur, making sure you breathe cleaner and healthier air without those annoying allergens.
  • Healthier Living: Air filters help keep you and your surroundings healthier by catching stuff like allergens and other bad stuff in the air that can make you sneeze or have trouble breathing. This is especially good if someone in your home has allergies or asthma.
  • Extended HVAC System Life: Air filters act as shields for your HVAC system. They stop dust and dirt from getting inside and causing problems. This not only helps your system run well but also makes it last longer, saving you money on repairs or having to buy a new system.
  • Energy Efficiency: Keeping your air filters clean is like giving your HVAC system a break. When filters get clogged with dirt, your system has to work harder, which leads to using more energy. By changing or cleaning the filters regularly, your system will not only work efficiently but will also lower your energy bills.
  • Odour Control: Some air filters can do more than just clean the air; they can also get rid of bad smells. Filters with special materials can absorb odours from cooking, pets, and other sources, which makes your home smell fresh and clean.
  • Protects HVAC Components: Air filters are like bodyguards for your HVAC system that stop dirt and debris from reaching the important parts. This protection keeps your system working well and avoids breakdowns, so you can relax without worrying about major repairs.

Choosing Air Filter’s Efficiency Ratings

Choosing Air Filter’s Efficiency Ratings

There are three main ways to check how good air filters are: MERV, FPR, and MPR. MERV is the go-to standard that everyone knows and uses worldwide. However, some companies prefer different ways to rate their filters. Just as we can use different methods to measure things, these rating systems give us options to see how good filters are at their job. So, it’s like having different rulers to measure and pick the air filter that suits you best.

1. MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value)

The MERV rating system is like the gold standard for judging filters. The ratings go from 1 to 16, where a lower number means it catches fewer particles, and a higher number means it catches more. So, when a filter has a MERV rating, it’s all about how good it is at grabbing tiny particles ranging from 0.3 to 10 microns in size. It’s basically a way of telling you how good a filter is at keeping the air clean and free of tiny stuff.

MERV Ratings Effective For
MERV 8 These filters can remove more than 70% of particles ranging from 3.0 to 10.0 microns, as well as more than 20% of particles ranging from 1.0 to 3.0 microns.
MERV 10 These filters can remove more than 80% of particles ranging from 3.0 to 10.0 microns and more than 50% of particles between 1.0 and 3.0 microns.
MERV 11 These filters can remove over 85% of particles between 3.0 and 10.0 microns, over 65% between 1.0 and 3.0 microns, and over 20% between 0.3 and 1.0 microns.
MERV 13 These filters can remove more than 90% of particles ranging from 3.0 to 10.0 microns, more than 85% between 1.0 and 3.0 microns, and more than 50% between 0.3 and 1.0 microns.
MERV 16 These filters are capable of filtering out more than 95% of particles ranging from 3.0 to 10.0 microns, 1.0 to 3.0 microns, and 0.3 to 1.0 microns.

2. FPR (Filter Performance Rating)

The FPR rating of a filter depends on two things: how well it grabs big and small particles and how much extra weight it gains as it collects these particles over time. They figure out the FPR score by looking at these factors, giving a rating from 1 to 10, where 10 is considered to be the best. They give more importance to catching big particles (60%), a bit less for small particles (30%), and a little weight for the extra stuff the filter picks up (10%). It’s like a score that shows you how good a filter is at handling different-sized particles and dealing with the extra stuff it collects along the way.

FPR Ratings Effective For
FPR Rating 4 These filters are capable of filtering out big particles such as household allergens and lint, pollen, dust mites, and dander from pets.
FPR Rating 7 These filters can remove everything in FPR 4, plus microscopic particles such as germs and mould spores.
FPR Rating 9 These filters can remove everything listed in FPR 7, as well as smoke, pollution, tiny allergens, and virus-carrying particles.
FPR Rating 10 These filters can filter out everything in FPR 9, as well as particles that can carry odours.

3. MPR (Micro-Particle Performance Rating)

The MPR rating shows how well a filter catches really tiny particles from 0.03 to 1.0 microns. It works on the idea that if a filter can handle the small stuff, it can handle the big stuff too. Ratings go from 300 to 2800 – the lower the number, the less efficient, and the higher the number, the more efficient. Think of it like a scale telling you how good a filter is at getting rid of those tiny particles, and higher numbers mean it’s doing a really good job.

MPR Ratings Effective For
MPR 300 These filters can remove 12% of particles ranging from 0.3 to 1.0 microns, more than 38% of particles between 1.0 and 3.0 microns, and more than 34% of particles between 3.0 and 10.0 microns.
MPR 600 These filters can remove 23% of particles ranging from 0.3 to 1.0 microns, 54% of particles between 1.0 and 3.0 microns, and 55% of particles between 3.0 and 10.0 microns.
MPR 1000 These filters can remove 41% of particles between 0.3 and 1.0 microns, over 77% of particles between 1.0 and 3.0 microns, and more than 88% of particles between 3.0 and 10.0 microns.
MPR 1200 These filters can filter out 43% of particles between 0.3 and 1.0 microns, more than 78% of particles from 1.0 to 3.0 microns, and more than 88% of particles between 3.0 and 10.0 microns.
MPR 1500 These filters are capable of removing 54% of particles that are between 0.3 and 1.0 microns, more than 83% of particles ranging from 1.0 to 3.0 microns, and more than 90% of particles between 3.0 and 10.0 microns.
MPR 1900 These filters can remove 62% of particles between 0.3 and 1.0 microns, 87% of particles between 1.0 and 3.0 microns, and over 95% of particles between 3.0 and 10.0 microns.
MPR 2200 These filters are capable of filtering out 69% of particles between 0.3 and 1.0 microns, over 90% of particles between 1.0 and 3.0 microns, and more than 96% of particles from 3.0 to 10.0 microns.
MPR 2800 These filters are capable of trapping 97% of particles ranging from 0.3 to 1.0 microns, 97% of particles between 1.0 and 3.0 microns, and 97% of particles between 3.0 and 10.0 microns.

4. HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air Filter)

HEPA filters are the best air filters you can get, as they are super effective in removing at least 99.7% of pollen, dust, bacteria, mould, and tiny particles as small as 0.3 microns. Although they might cost a bit more, you can find them in hospitals, aeroplanes, and delicate manufacturing plants where clean air is essential. Nowadays, some health-conscious people also use HEPA filters at home to make sure the air they breathe is super clean.

HEPA filter grades: H10, H11, H12, H13, and H14

Filter Grades Effective For
H10 These filters can remove 85% of particles that are smaller than 0.5 microns.
H11 These filters are capable of removing 95% of particles that are smaller than 0.5 microns.
H12 These filters can filter out 99.5% of particles that are smaller than 0.5 microns.
H13 These filters can remove 99.95% of particles that are smaller than 0.3 microns.
H14 These filters are capable of removing 99.995% of particles that are lower than 0.3 microns.

What Air Filter Can Control?

Air Filter

1: Dust: Think of dust as a lot like pet dander, especially if you have furry friends in your house. To deal with both, consider using a high-efficiency air filter like the ones with HEPA Filter Media. These filters do a great job by trapping the bigger dust bits and making sure that the air in your whole house stays nice and clean.

2: Bacteria, Germs, and Viruses: Although there is not much scientific proof supporting the use of HEPA filter-based media for general sanitization and health improvement, there’s growing evidence suggesting it might be helpful against germs, bacteria, and viruses. A study from the University of Colorado found that UV light on a filter can filter out about 97% of bacteria cells, showing it could be good against bacteria. Another review said that air cleaners with or without UV light could help protect healthcare workers from infectious diseases. While more research is needed, these findings suggest HEPA filters might have some antibacterial benefits.

3: Asthma: If airborne particles activate your asthma, having an air cleaner at home is a good idea. The type you need depends on the specific things you are allergic to. Usually, an air cleaner with a HEPA filter and activated carbon is the best choice. The HEPA filter can remove big particles like dust and pet dander, and the activated carbon takes care of the tiny particles. Together, they work well to get rid of all the possible allergens that might be causing your asthma troubles.

4: Mould: Mould spores can be big, and just getting them out of the air might not be enough. A high-efficiency air filter is good at removing mould, but an air cleaner with UV light can be more effective. Mould spores are alive and UV light can damage their DNA, which helps stop them from reproducing. This not only helps get rid of existing mould but also keeps it from spreading too fast. If you are thinking of getting an air cleaner for a moist basement, a HEPA filter with UV light can be a smart choice to keep mould under control and improve the air quality.

5: Smoke: Smoke can come from different places, such as fireplaces, cigarettes, kitchens, or wildfires. So, having an air cleaner that can get rid of smoke is important. To tackle both the visible smoke and the smell, it’s best to have both HEPA filter-based media and an activated carbon filter in your cleaner. This combination makes sure that your indoor air stays clear and fresh.

6: Pet Allergies: Most of the time, pet allergies come from tiny skin cells, not the pet’s hair itself. These cells (known as pet dander) are carried around by the hair, spreading them all over your home. Thankfully, in the world of air purification, pet dander particles are on the bigger side. Since most pet dander is bigger than 2 microns, using a HEPA air filter made from synthetic materials is the best option for getting rid of most of the dander from the air.

7: House with Kids: We all want the best for our kids, so having an air cleaner that removes harmful stuff in various ways is a smart move. When you choose an air cleaner with both a HEPA air filter and activated carbon, you are covering all bases against indoor air problems. This combo uses different technologies to catch and get rid of bad stuff, giving the whole family excellent air quality. Whether your kids have allergies, a weaker immune system, or they are just healthy and lively, an air cleaner can make everyone feel better.

8: Odour Removal: Getting rid of bad smells at home can be a challenge, but the best way is to use a HEPA air filter with activated carbon. Activated carbon is super good at removing the tiny stuff that causes odours. If you only use a high-efficiency air filter, it might not handle smells well, but adding activated carbon can probably help. The cool thing about activated carbon is that it doesn’t just cover up the smell; it actually gets rid of it.

Different Types Of Air Filter Materials

Different Types Of Air Filter Materials

1. Spun Glass or Fiberglass Filters

Fibreglass filters are created by weaving together glass strands, mostly fibreglass, and securing them with a metal frame. These filters are commonly found in HVAC systems because they are budget-friendly. However, even though they are widely used, they don’t do much to make your indoor air better. They can only catch about 20% of particles that are between 3.0 and 10.0 microns in size, such as regular dust, pollen, and carpet fibres.

Pros:

  • The least inexpensive option
  • Best for keeping debris out of the house (such as lint and dust)
  • Stronger than plastic filters
  • Less stress on HVAC units
  • Reduced maintenance costs

Cons:

  • Short lifetime
  • Low efficiency
  • Not very good at removing tiny particles
  • Not as strong as pleated filters
  • Unsuitable for asthma or allergies

2. Pleated Filters

Pleated filters are made from folded polyester or cotton material, giving them a larger surface area to catch more stuff. They might be a little pricier than fibreglass filters, but because of their bigger surface, they are great at trapping things like pet dander and pollen. You can choose between reusable and disposable pleated filters.

Pros:

  • Can trap smaller particles
  • Longer life
  • Better filtration performance
  • Improved engine protection
  • Decreased Health Hazard

Cons:

  • Little expensive as compared to fibreglass filters
  • High energy consumption
  • Initial pressure drop
  • Not suitable for high-humidity environments

3. HEPA Filters

HEPA filters stand out as super-efficient among HVAC filter types. They have the remarkable ability to eliminate as much as 99.97% of airborne pollutants and allergens in your home. They can remove dust, mould, pollen, pet fur, viruses, smoke, and bacteria from the air. If you have allergies or breathing issues, these filters are a game-changer.

Pros:

  • Enhanced air quality
  • Long-term cost savings
  • Reduced spread of airborne illness
  • Pet allergen control
  • Reduced asthma triggers

Cons:

  • Bit pricier compared to regular fibreglass or pleated filters
  • Not Suitable for All HVAC Systems
  • Limited Effect on Odours
  • Bulky Design

4. UV Filters

UV filters or UV lights use a special kind of light to get rid of bacteria and viruses. Imagine it like this: when air moves through the HVAC system, these lights act like superheroes, zapping germs with their special power. UV filters are great at stopping tiny organisms that could harm your health. Just remember, these light bulbs usually need changing every year to keep doing their job well.

Pros:

  • Eliminates mould
  • Kills viruses and bacteria
  • Faster heating and cooling
  • Reduced odours

Cons:

  • Limited coverage
  • They are costly to purchase and install
  • Limited lifespan
  • Needs more maintenance

5. Washable Filters

Washable filters are great for the environment because you don’t have to throw them away and get new ones. You can choose between flat or pleated forms. To clean them, you just need to vacuum or rinse off the dirt. But remember, let the filter dry completely before putting it back in your system to prevent mould or bacteria from growing in the moisture.

Pros:

  • Eco-friendly
  • Cost-effective
  • Less regular repairs for the system
  • More sustainable

Cons:

  • You need to wash them regularly
  • Fails to trap larger particles
  • It doesn’t protect against odours
  • A small amount of moisture might lead to mould

6. Media Filters

Media filters are made of paper-like material that is folded into pleats and placed inside a metal box. Despite being less than six inches wide, when you unfold the pleats, they cover 75 square feet. This makes media filters seven times better at their job compared to regular air filters. Depending on where you live, these filters can keep working well for up to 2 years.

Pros:

  • Extended lifespan
  • It is best for houses that are near factories
  • Better temperature control
  • Captures tiny, invisible air pollutants

Cons:

  • Needs to be professionally installed
  • Ineffective in filtering odours
  • Less availability in standard sizes
  • Limited compatibility

7. Electrostatic Filters

These filters use a mix of cotton and paper fibres to make static electricity. The static works like a magnet that traps pollutants on the filter screen. It’s the best choice, especially if you have allergies, as it stops allergens from spreading in your home. These electrostatic filters often come with an extra carbon filter, either pleated or flat, to make them even better at their job.

Pros:

  • Available in both washable and disposable forms
  • Affordable
  • It can be reusable
  • Prevents allergies from spreading
  • Reduces electricity costs

Cons:

  • Might get clogged
  • Not suitable for respiratory disorders
  • Do not remove harmful gases
  • It can cause bad odours

How Often Should You Change Your Air Filter?

Change Your Air Filter

How often you should change your air filter depends on a few things, like how much you use your HVAC system and how much dust and stuff it deals with. The type of filter matters too, so you need to check your manual. Generally, if you have a 1-inch filter, think about changing it every 2-3 months. For the bigger 5-inch filters, you are good for about 6-12 months. Keeping an eye on these factors and sticking to what the manufacturer suggests ensures that your system works well and keeps the air inside your place nice and clean.

Steps to Change Your HVAC System’s Air Filter:

Step 1: Turn off the unit to stop the air from pushing dust and particles into your system.

Step 2: Open your vent and remove the old filter

Step 3: Ensure that the airflow signs are pointed toward the HVAC unit.

Step 4: After installing the new filter in the HVAC system, close your vent.

Step 5: You can now turn the unit back on.

Conclusion

In this complete guide to air filters, we have uncovered the surprising impact of this simple item on your HVAC system and the air you breathe indoors. Now, you can confidently know when and how to switch them out and which one to pick. Changing your air filter is an easy part of taking care of your home. It’s a simple way to keep both yourself and your HVAC system healthy and cut down on energy costs at the same time. So, as we finish up this guide, just remember that a small step like changing your air filter can have some pretty great results for your health and your home.

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