A man reaching up and changing the filter with the words, "how does an air filter work?"

You rely on your home’s air filter to remove impurities from your indoor air. However, very few people actually understand how air filters work or the different types of air filters that are available. By having a more comprehensive understanding of how HVAC air filters work and what to look for in a home air filter, you can optimize your indoor air quality, take better care of your HVAC system, and breathe a little easier!

What is the Purpose of an Air Filter?

Most people believe that air filters are primarily meant to improve indoor air quality. And while it’s true that improved air quality is an outcome of a great air filter, the reality is that this is not the primary purpose of an air filter. In fact, air filters are actually designed to protect and improve the efficiency of your home’s HVAC system.

Types of Air Filters

There are two main types of air filters: disposable and reusable. Each type has its own inherent advantages and drawbacks. The type of filter that is right for you will ultimately depend on many factors, ranging from your current HVAC setup to your personal preferences.

Disposable Air Filters

The majority of the air filters used in HVAC systems today are of the disposable variety. These are filters that are designed to be thrown away and replaced with a new filter as needed. Typically, a disposable air filter will last for about one to three months before needing to be replaced, but this can vary greatly depending on the filter size, style, and factors within your home as well.

Disposable filters are convenient for many homeowners because they don’t have to be cleaned or otherwise maintained. Homeowners simply need to remember to replace filters as they become dirty. These filters are also relatively inexpensive, though pricing can vary greatly depending on the exact type you buy for your system.

Reusable Air Filters

Another option to consider is the reusable air filter. This type of filter is designed to last for up to five years before it needs to be thrown out and replaced. During this time, homeowners can simply clean then reuse the filter when it becomes soiled or dirty.

These filters do cost more money up-front, but they can save homeowners money in the long run since they only need to be replaced every several years. They’re also a more eco-friendly option than disposable filters because they can cut down on landfill waste significantly. If you decide to purchase a reusable air filter for your home, just make sure that you set a reminder to clean it out every month or so. All too often, homeowners will forget about their reusable filters; from there, dirty filters can restrict airflow throughout the system and affect indoor air quality.

Energy-Efficiency Ratings and Air Filters

As you shop for reusable and disposable air filters, you’ll probably notice different energy-efficiency ratings and other confusing jargon. While each home has different energy needs, there are a few basic things to keep in mind as you shop for the right air filter for your HVAC system.

First, understand that filters are rated according to the size of the air particles they can filter out. This is usually expressed in a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. The higher the MERV rating, the more effective the filter is at removing smaller particles from the air. A lower MERV rating, on the other hand, means less efficiency.

You might also come across a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) rating as you shop for air filters. These ratings are a bit different and refer to filters that use static electricity to catch more airborne particles than a standard filter.

While HEPA filters can be a great solution for some homes, it’s generally best to speak with an HVAC specialist before using a HEPA filter in your home. That’s because not all HVAC systems are designed to accommodate these filters. Using a HEPA filter in an incompatible HVAC system could actually restrict airflow and result in a loss of energy efficiency; this could also result in premature wear and tear on your system. And of course, you don’t want to be spending more money on a “fancy” HEPA filter if it’s not actually doing anything to help your air quality or energy efficiency!

The best way to find out what type of filter is best for your system is always to speak with an HVAC professional.

Find Your Perfect Definition of Comfort

Whether you’re looking for advice on the right type of air filter to use in your home or are in need of assistance with your home’s heating and cooling system, our team at Comfort Masters Heating & Air Conditioning is always here to help. Contact us to schedule your service appointment or speak with a friendly and knowledgeable member of our team. We look forward to serving you!