Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary in quality and size, and some have features that others don't. In most cases we advise installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer says to pair with your unit.

All filters have MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher ranking demonstrates the filter can trap smaller particles. This sounds great, but a filter that traps finer substances can become obstructed faster, heightening pressure on your equipment. If your unit isn’t made to run with this model of filter, it might reduce airflow and create other troubles.

Unless you are in a hospital, you likely don’t need a MERV rating above 13. In fact, most residential HVAC systems are specifically engineered to run with a filter with a MERV level under 13. Occasionally you will discover that quality systems have been engineered to run with a MERV rating of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV ranking of 5 should get many common annoyance, like pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to catch mold spores, but we suggest having a professional remove mold instead of trying to hide the problem with a filter.

Usually the packaging indicates how frequently your filter should be changed. In our experience, the accordion-style filters hold up better, and are worth the additional cost.

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

While you could want to use a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like adding a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling unit. It’s highly doubtful your equipment was created to work with kind of resistance. If you’re worried about indoor air quality in Oklahoma City, think over adding a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This unit works in tandem with your heating and cooling system.