Timberline Blog

Furnace Filters and Air Quality: Some of the Best Options

October 25, 2022 by Timberline

Good air quality is essential to your health and happiness. Whether in your home or business, the air you breathe has both immediate and long-term effects on you and your family, employees, and customers.

Installing a new, clean air filter

So, there’s tremendous pressure to ensure that the air flowing from your HVAC system is as free of particles as possible. The good news is that it’s not difficult to maintain good air quality. In fact, your HVAC system is designed to make your job easy.

Specifically, you can change the air filter in a matter of minutes. It doesn’t require tools, written directions or an in-depth understanding of your HVAC equipment. You simply need to turn the system off briefly, make the switch, and turn it on again.

If you keep spare air filters near your furnace, as most people do, it might take less than a minute to swap old for new. The more significant time investment is in learning about furnace filters and obtaining the right ones for your system and for the requirements of your family or business.

And even that doesn’t take long. A few minutes of reading this blog post is all it takes to understand furnace filters and be prepared to make your purchase.

Furnace Filter Functioning and Terminology

HVAC systems are remarkable in their ability to keep the air in your home or business at the desired temperature and free of harmful particles. It’s a complex task that they handle with ease.

When they’re operating correctly, you’re hardly aware they’re running. And while there’s a great deal of technology involved, your furnace filter is very simple in its design and functioning.

In a nutshell, furnace filters have openings large enough for air to flow through but small enough that airborne particles cannot. It’s a fundamental but highly effective mechanical process. The many filter types and options available may make it feel like picking the right one is challenging, but that’s only until you take a closer look and realize furnace filter manufacturers have taken the “guesswork” out of buying filters.

They do that by rating their products on a scale. Most use the MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) scale. The higher the MERV number, the smaller the particles a filter can remove.

For example, a rating of 1 to 4 means a filter can catch larger particles like carpet fibers, pollen and dust mites. Filters with ratings of 5 to 8 will remove mold spores, dander and similar particles. A rating of 9 to 12 means a filter can catch airborne material like fine dust and tiny particulates from car emissions. The highest MERV ratings (up to 16) are for filters capable of removing bacteria, droplets from coughing or sneezing, airborne paint pigments and the like.

So, choosing a furnace filter is a matter of assessing your needs and finding the right rating. It’s also important to know that a higher MERV rating means smaller airflow holes, which affects the efficiency of an HVAC system. It simply can’t move as much air as easily. Consequently, you shouldn’t just grab the highest-rated filter by default.

You will find that some manufacturers use other rating scales. For instance, 3M filters provide a microparticle performance rating (MPR) and Home Depot uses a filter performance rating (FPR) scale. But translating other scales is easy once you understand the concept behind MERV ratings.

Our Favorite Furnace Filters

Any furnace filter that provides reliable performance at a reasonable price is a good one. But in our work with customers in Colorado, we’ve found certain products that stand out. We list some of them below.

To be clear: This list, which is presented in no particular order, isn’t the result of any scientific testing we’ve performed. It’s simply a handful of furnace filters worth considering as you make a purchase.

  • Filtrete 1900 Maximum Allergen Reduction. This filter is great at removing smoke, pollen and dust from the air. It’s particularly effective when the system fan is running at higher speeds. The company recommends you replace the $20 filter four times annually.
  • Aprilaire Healthy Home 213 MERV 13. People get excellent performance from this filter at both high and low fan speeds. It’s also a more cost-effective option when compared to certain other filters. The recommended replacement frequency is once per year, for a total cost of around $40.
  • True Blue Budget Washable Filter. This filter is unique in that you can wash it as needed, and it will last for up to a year. It doesn’t have a high rating but is an option for simple filtering. And it’s very affordable at around $10.
  • Lennox Healthy Climate CarbonClean 16. This filter provides effective filtering at any fan speed while not reducing airflow noticeably. It costs around $100 and should be replaced annually.
  • Filtrete Healthy Living Ultra Allergen 4 MPR1550. Furnaces using this filter have virtually unrestricted airflow and good removal of particulate matter. The approximately $30 filter should be replaced twice annually.
  • Honeywell Elite Allergen Pleated MERV 13. At around $37 and with replacement recommended every three months, this isn’t the least expensive filter on the market. But the MERV rating is high, meaning it catches extremely small particles.

Prices will vary based on where you buy your filter and, like all products, will increase over time. Performance will also vary based on your environment and HVAC system. But the list above should provide good “food for thought” as you do your research.

Regardless of the filter you select, the most important factor in effective system operation is replacing your filter on a regular basis—according to the filter manufacturer’s recommendations or more frequently as needed. A significant percentage of no-heat or no-cooling calls can be attributed to occupants simply not keeping a regular schedule with their filter replacements.

If you currently have a preventative maintenance plan with Timberline Mechanical, you’re likely receiving a standard MERV-8 filter, changed on a regular basis. With this approach, we’ve seen no system performance issues. If you’d like to get on a maintenance plan, you’ll always have the option to handle this duty yourself to save on the total service package cost.

Furnace Filters by Environment Type: The Right Product for Your Home or Business

The filters above deliver good to excellent general performance. If you have specific health conditions or concerns, you can do a quick online search. For example, you might search for “furnace filters for allergies” or “air filters for homes with pets” to get information and read reviews about products designed for a specific purpose.

Get Expert Advice on Keeping Your Indoor Air Clean

In addition to designing, installing and servicing HVAC systems, our technicians can provide air filter recommendations specific to your needs and system. In doing so, they take into account your indoor environment, filter reviews by authoritative sources and their experience working with other Colorado customers.

That knowledge of the air filtering requirements specific to our state can be especially beneficial since online reviews are, by necessity, generic. Contact Timberline Mechanical today to learn more about our residential, commercial and industrial HVAC services.

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