Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters differ in quality and size, and some have specs that others don't. In most instances we advise installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer suggests pairing with your unit.

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

A larger ranking indicates the filter can trap finer particles. This sounds great, but a filter that stops finer dirt can become obstructed faster, heightening pressure on your system. If your unit isn’t made to function with this kind of filter, it might decrease airflow and cause other issues.

Unless you are in a medical facility, you likely don’t have to have a MERV ranking greater than 13. In fact, the majority of residential HVAC systems are specifically engineered to work with a filter with a MERV ranking below 13. Sometimes you will find that decent systems have been made to operate with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV rating of 5 should get the majority of the everyday triggers, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters assert they can trap mold spores, but we recommend having a professional eliminate mold as opposed to trying to mask the trouble with a filter.

Usually the packaging shows how frequently your filter should be changed. From what we’ve seen, the accordion-style filters hold up better, and are worth the added price.

Filters are manufactured from varying materials, with one-use fiberglass filters being the most common. Polyester and pleated filters trap more debris but may limit your system’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you could tempted to use a HEPA filter, know that's like putting a MERV 16 filter in your comfort system. It’s very doubtful your unit was designed to work with level of resistance. If you’re worried about indoor air quality in Kitchener, think about getting a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This unit works alongside your heating and cooling system.