Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters are different in quality and measurements, and some have specs that others don't. In most cases we suggest using the filter your HVAC manufacturer suggests pairing with your unit.

All filters are assigned MERV ratings, which go from 1–20. MERV is short for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher ranking means the filter can catch smaller substances. This sounds great, but a filter that catches finer dust can become obstructed faster, increasing pressure on your equipment. If your system isn’t created to function with this type of filter, it might lower airflow and cause other troubles.

Unless you are in a medical center, you probably don’t need a MERV level higher than 13. In fact, many residential HVAC units are specifically engineered to operate with a filter with a MERV level below 13. Sometimes you will learn that good systems have been made to run with a MERV ranking of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV level of 5 should catch the majority of the common nuisances, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters say they can stop mold spores, but we suggest having a professional eliminate mold as opposed to trying to mask the trouble with a filter.

Often the packaging indicates how regularly your filter should be exchanged. 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 standard. Polyester and pleated filters trap more dirt but may decrease your unit’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 designed to run with kind of resistance. If you’re concerned about indoor air quality in Denver, think over installing a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This equipment works in tandem with your HVAC system.