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Air Filters vs. Air Cleaners

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Have you ever walked down the filter aisle in your local home improvement or grocery store? The selection and style of filters can be a little mind boggling. So, today I want to look at different types of filters and hopefully guide you to the correct choice for you and your family. The first thing to establish is that there is a world of difference between an air filter that just protects the air conditioner and keeps it clean and a filter that actually cleans the air.

It all starts with the MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating for the filter you are looking at. The MERV scale ranges from one to twenty, with the higher the number being the better job the filter is going to do. If you do not have air quality concerns or allergies and you are just looking to keep the air conditioner clean, a filter rating between eight and thirteen is going to be your best bet. Obviously the higher the MERV rating gets the more expensive the filter becomes.

I also suggest that you do not follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on how often to change your filter. Many filters tout that they last ninety-days, when in reality, in some circumstances, a ninety-day filter could last two weeks. It all comes down to the conditions in the home. A family of four with two dogs and a cat will definitely need to change that filter more often than a retired couple with no pets. When you change the filter check it monthly at a minimum and if it looks dirty change it. Also, if you notice your air conditioner getting louder and making more noise, a dirty filter is likely to blame.

Let’s move on to higher MERV rated filters and actual air purifiers. There are a myriad of devices out there that can actually improve the quality of the air versus just filtering it. Now, I’m no doctor, however, if you suffer from allergies, stuffy noses or other breathing problems this is where your friendly neighborhood HVAC professional can help.

We have filtration options ranging from stand-alone filters for rooms to whole home options that with the right installation can provide you medical grade air quality in your entire domicile. Other options include filters that use a small electrical charge to create positive and negative ions that cause dirt particles to stick to the filter grid as well as ultra violet lighting to help prevent unwanted fungal growth in the air conditioner. Other types of filters use hydrogen peroxide and carbon blocks for air purification.

Again, every home and every installation of the air conditioner is slightly different and because the choices are so varied it is best to sit with a professional, discuss your air quality goals and see what the right fit for your personal application is. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, do not forget to ask the HVAC guy to check your ductwork. Even the best filter in the world can’t do its job if the ducts are not properly sealed.

Now, if we could just find a solution for all the people full of hot air in the world. Until next time my friends…

House Whisperer out!!


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