Types of Furnace Filters for Cleaner Indoor Air

Types of Furnace Filters for Cleaner Indoor Air

If you want your furnace to run as efficiently and effectively as possible, a good filter is essential. With so many furnace filters available, however, it can take some time to find the right one for your home. Explore this helpful guide to see which style of furnace air filter will work best for you.

Why and When to Change Furnace Filters

A furnace filter is typically a small, rectangular device that sits near your furnace input vent. All incoming air passes through the filter, and the filter traps any dust, mold spores, pollen, or other grime. A good furnace filter helps to keep your indoor air feeling fresh and clean. Not only does it cut back on dust floating around inside your house, but it also reduces your risk of dealing with respiratory issues.

Furnace filters also help your HVAC system function properly. By catching airborne contaminants before they enter your system, your filter keeps debris from building up on the furnace’s interior components. This ensures your furnace operates efficiently, and it reduces your likelihood of needing to make costly furnace repairs.

Different types of filters need to be replaced on different timetables. On average, a furnace filter will need to be changed every 90 days. However, if you have allergies or a lot of pets in the home, you might need to change it more frequently. Some homeowners change their furnace air filters every 60 days or even every 40 days. To find the right timetable for your home, check for these signs it’s time for a furnace filter replacement:

  • Unusually high amounts of dust and dirt floating around in your home
  • Dark streaks of dust around furnace vents
  • Unusually long furnace cycles
  • Musty or dusty smells inside your home
  • People who keep waking up with sore throats, headaches, or itchy eyes
  • Unpleasant smells of burning or overheating

Understanding Different Types of Furnace Filters

Not all furnace filters work the same way. Furnace filter types typically come in a few basic categories. Each style of filter has its own pros and cons.

Fiberglass filters are the most basic type of furnace filter. They have overlapping fiberglass fibers that can catch larger pieces of debris. Though fiberglass filters don’t do a great job of trapping small contaminants, they’re still a decent choice if you’re on a budget. Compared to other filters, fiberglass furnace filters are very affordable, and they can catch particles as small as 10 microns.

Pleated filters provide an excellent blend of affordability and effectiveness. These filters are typically made from a fine mesh of synthetic fiber that is folded back and forth into accordion-style pleats. The pleats increase the surface area of the filter, so it has more space to catch debris. Pleated filters work well while still being very budget-friendly, so they’re the most popular style of filter overall. They can trap extremely small particles between 10 microns and 0.3 microns in size.

Electrostatic filters use static electricity to pull dust and other debris out of the air. These filters aren’t quite as efficient as pleated filters. Due to the unique way that they work, they can easily catch smaller particles like dust but may struggle to grab bigger particles like pollen. However, they’re quite useful because they can be reused. With an electrostatic filter, you can remove the filter, clean it, and place it back in the furnace.

HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air, and it refers to a type of extremely efficient filter. Like a pleated filter, they can remove particles that are as small as 0.3 microns. HEPA filters also do a better job of catching mold spores, pet dander, and other contaminants that cause breathing problems. Not all furnaces work with HEPA filters because these extremely dense filters require a very powerful blower to pull air through the filter. However, if you have allergies and a HEPA-compatible HVAC system, using this filter style can be a good choice.

The final category of filters are washable and permanent filters. This refers to a whole class of filter types that can be reused. Electrostatic filters are technically a type of washable filter, but there are also reusable filters made from things like overlapping aluminum mesh sheets or pleated foam. Instead of throwing away the filter at the end of 90 days, you just remove it and clean it. These filters aren’t always very efficient at removing small particles. However, they’re very affordable and create less waste overall.

Choosing the Right Furnace Filter

How do you pick from all the different types of furnace filters? First and most importantly, you need to find one compatible with your furnace. Check the user manual for your furnace to see what size filter will fit in your furnace. Next, see whether the manufacturer recommends a specific type of efficiency level. You’ll also need to consider factors such as:

  • Budget: Decide how much you’re comfortable spending on furnace filters. Make sure to factor in the cost of replacement if necessary.
  • Air filtration needs: If any members of your house have respiratory issues, you might need a high-filtration furnace.
  • Environmental concerns: Some homeowners prefer reusable washable filters that let them use fewer materials overall.
  • Indoor air quality needs: If you live in a home with a lot of pets or pollen-producing plants, a more intense filter might be helpful.

When looking at furnace filters, you’ll need to pay close attention to MERV ratings. The minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) of a filter refers to its ability to trap airborne contaminants. MERV ratings go from 1 to 16, and higher MERV ratings mean the filter can catch smaller debris. Most modern furnaces use a MERV of at least 6, but some residential furnaces can handle a MERV of 12 or even higher. Your user manual will give you a MERV range that works with your furnace. For maximum efficiency and the best possible air quality, use the highest MERV your furnace can accommodate. However, keep in mind that higher MERV ratings are pricier, so some homeowners may prefer a lower MERV filter.

The final thing to consider when selecting a furnace is specialty features. Some filters come with additional options that provide extra perks for homeowners. For example, if you’re worried about odors in your home, you might want a furnace with activated carbon to try smelly particles. There are also a lot of specialty filters that have antimicrobial properties if you’re concerned about bacteria and mold in your air.

Find All Types of Furnace Filters at True Value

Whatever type of furnace filter you need, True Value can help. With an extensive selection of high-quality filters, True Value makes it easy to pick out the perfect furnace filter for your home. Find a local True Value store near you to get started.