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What Is the Best Air Filter for an HVAC System?


Did you know indoor air quality can be two to five times worse than outdoor air? Since people spend 90 percent of their lives indoors, this can translate to respiratory and other health problems.

Air filters remove different contaminants from your home or business's air. Common ones include dust, pollen, and pet danger. More robust filters can capture smoke, mould spores, bacteria, and viruses.

With so many different air filters, knowing which is best for your HVAC system can be challenging. Choosing the wrong one can negatively affect your air quality and your HVAC unit and components.

The good news is that once you understand the basic characteristics and functions of HVAC filters, you can determine which is best for your system. Keep reading to find out more.


Standard Air Filters

Standard air filters are made from spun fibreglass, paper, or cloth inside a cardboard frame. They typically fit somewhere in or near your main internal HVAC unit.

Standard filters have a MERV rating, which is "minimum efficiency reporting values." It is a way of gauging how much particulate matter it will remove from the air. MERV ratings run from 1 to 20--the higher the rating, the better the filter captures certain particles.

Even the lowest MERV ratings will capture pollen and dust mites. Ratings 1 through 4 above MERV 5 will capture mould spores.

MERV 13 and above will capture some bacteria and tobacco smoke. For microscopic organisms, choose a filter with a MERV rating above 17.

So, why don't people buy the highest rating possible? Beyond cost, there are some good reasons.

The main one is that a filter rated high than what your system is designed to handle will cause it to work extra. This can lead to wear and tear and possible breakdowns over time. A reputable HVAC technician can advise you on what is appropriate for your system.


HEPA Filters

HEPA or "high-efficiency particulate air" filters have increased in popularity since the onset of COVID. These filters can remove most particles that are 0.3 microns or lower, compared to MERV-16-level filtration or higher.

These filters are highly effective at purifying the air. They are long-lasting––you only need to change them every few years. One downside is that you need to adjust these filters based on your specific HVAC system capabilities.



UV Light Filters

An ultraviolet (UV) air filter uses radiation to kill bacteria and viruses. Air moving from your HVAC system to your home passes through the UV light, which kills any microorganisms that may be present. These filters are helpful for homes that want to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses.


A downside to UV filters is that they are costly to install. They also do not remove common particles, like dust, and must be combined with other filters.



Washable Filters

You must remove and discard most filters every couple of months to a year. Washable filters are reusable. They come standard in ductless mini-split wall units but are gaining popularity in standard HVAC systems.

These filters are more environmentally friendly and can save money long-term. There is some maintenance involved in washable filters; they must be completely dry before you put them back into the unit.



Find the Best Filters for Your HVAC System

Now that you understand the types and basic functions of air filters, you can decide which is best for your HVAC system. Remember that a qualified HVAC company can help you learn more about which one is right for your home.

Balcaen and Son’s are Winnipeg's premier heating, cooling, and plumbing service. Our licensed technicians are available 24/7, and we guarantee quality parts, maintenance, repairs, and installation. Reach out to us today to schedule service.

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