HVAC Filters: Choosing The Right One For Your Home
Indoor air quality in our homes is a hot topic these days, for obvious reasons – but the truth is that air quality should always be a top consideration if you want to live as healthy as possible, especially during spring allergy season.
If you have a forced air system (one with vents and a furnace rather than baseboards or radiators and a boiler), one of your most important jobs is to change its filters regularly. Simply put, a clean filter will do a better job than a clogged one at blocking the microorganisms, dander, and other allergens that will inevitably find their way into your home. As a side bonus, a clean air filter will also lower energy bills and contribute to a longer lifespan for your equipment.
What are the different types of air filters?
Air filters come in a number of types and materials, each with different capabilities and price points. Here’s an overview of basic types of air filters you’ll find at your local hardware store:
- Flat-panel: Typically the cheapest type of air filter, traditional disposable flat-panel models have fibers stretched over a framework. They’re disposable and easy to install, but they are also the most porous type of filter.
- Pleated: Disposable pleated filters use dense screens of cotton or plastic fibers to remove particles from the air. Pleats provide more surface area for filtration and allow the filter to catch more debris. They are typically more expensive than flat-panel filters.
- Electrostatic: Some air filters are electrostatically charged to trap more (and smaller) particles such as pollen, smoke or bacteria. They can be flat or pleated, and they can be disposable or washable.
- Washable: Washable or reusable filters come in both flat-panel and pleated options, and they can be hosed down with water or vacuumed to remove particle buildup. Washable filters usually have a life span of two to four years, depending on use.
- HEPA filters: The term “HEPA” (High-efficiency particulate air) is assigned to any filter that consistently removes at least 99.97 percent of particles in the air that are 0.3 microns or larger. Though they’re most commonly used in hospitals, laboratories, and other settings that require extremely clean air, they can be used in households where people suffer from allergies or have a compromised immune system. Just keep in mind that not all HVAC systems are designed to handle the super-dense HEPA filters. Consult your owner’s manual to learn more.
What do MERV, MPR, and FPR mean?
When it comes time to buy your replacement filter, you’ll also encounter a sea of acronyms – specifically MERV, MPR, FPR. Each term describes a system that uses numbers to describe the tightness of the filter weave, with higher numbers indicating finer filtration. The only difference among the three systems is who manufactured them.
- MERV, or Minimum efficiency reporting value, is a measure developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); MERV ratings range from 1-20.
- MPR, or Micro-Particle Performance Rating, pertains only to products developed by the 3M company; typical MPR ratings range from 300 to 2200.
- FPR, or Filter Performance Rating, is a filter rating system developed by Home Depot for the brands sold through its stores, including Honeywell; it uses a 1-10 rating scale.
Converting MERV, MPR and FPR values
Here’s a conversion table of MERV, MPR and FPR ratings for common residential usage (higher-valued filters are often used in hospitals and operating rooms, but are not necessary for home use):
||Lint, dust, pollen
||Dust mites, mold spores
||Pet dander, smoke, smog
||Bacteria, virus carriers
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