Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters differ in quality and measurements, and some have specifications that others don't. In most instances we suggest installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer says to pair with your equipment.

All filters have MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV is short for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A bigger rating indicates the filter can trap smaller particles. This sounds outstanding, but a filter that catches finer dust can become blocked more rapidly, heightening pressure on your equipment. If your unit isn’t made to work with this model of filter, it may reduce airflow and cause other problems.

Unless you live in a hospital, you more than likely don’t need a MERV rating above 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC systems are specifically designed to operate with a filter with a MERV level below 13. Sometimes you will learn that decent systems have been designed to work with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should get the majority of the daily triggers, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters say they can trap mold spores, but we recommend having a professional remove mold as opposed to trying to conceal the problem with a filter.

Sometimes the packaging indicates how regularly your filter should be changed. In our experience, the accordion-style filters hold up better, and are worth the additional price.

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

While you may be interested in using a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like installing a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling system. It’s highly doubtful your equipment was designed to run with amount of resistance. If you’re troubled by indoor air quality in Raleigh, think about getting a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works alongside your HVAC system.