Why Are Air Conditioning Filters Necessary for AC Systems?

In order to understand how essential and necessary air filters are for your HVAC system, you must understand the purpose of an air filter and what job the air filter has. The air filter is one of the cheapest replacement parts for your heating and cooling system, yet it is the number one cause of system breakdowns and system malfunctions. 

You can save money in the end by keeping a regular schedule for filter maintenance. Also, if you are concerned about energy efficiency, you should understand that replacing a clogged filter with a new one can help to lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%.

Your AC filter’s job is to clean the air that circulates through your heating and cooling system. Your filters exist to trap and collect many different types of particles and debris that could ultimately cause health problems or system malfunctions, like:

  • Dust and dirt
  • Fibers and lint
  • Pet Dander/Animal Fur
  • Bacteria 
  • Mold and mold spores

Choosing the RIGHT Air Filter for your Air Conditioning Unit

Now that you understand the job of an HVAC Air Filter, it is also important to understand the efficiency of filters. Not all air filters will filter your indoor air at the same efficiency. Depending upon the efficiency of the filter determines the price you will pay for the filter. Less effective filters will ultimately be cheaper than filters with a high MERV rating. 

MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, as defined by the United States Environmental Protection AgencyThe MERV rating scale ranges from 1 to 20. The MERV rating shows us how effective the filter is at filtering out pollutants that range from .3 microns to 10 microns (μm), which is the range of most pollutants in our homes range between.  

When you are purchasing an air filter, you need to consider how large the air contaminants in your home are. From smaller airborne particles like dust, smoke, and bacteria, to larger ones like pollen, mold spores, pet dander, cockroach debris, and carpet fibers. 

-Click THIS LINK for a better understanding of the MERV Rating Scale.

When choosing the right filter for your system, remember, choosing higher efficiency is not always the better choice. You should check to see what your air conditioner or furnace manufacturer recommends because ultimately selecting an air filter that is overrated for your system could cause your system to not run as it should, also known as “choking the system,” cause problems with your unit’s efficiency, and cause airflow restrictions. 

Types of Air Filters

There are many types of air filters designed with one goal in mind, KEEPING THE AIR YOU BREATHE CLEAN. Listed below are the most common, popular air filter options:

  • Fiberglass air filters
  • Pleated filters 
  •  HEPA Filters 
  •  UV Filters 

Fiberglass Air Filters

A cheaper option and are completely disposable. These are popular/common choices because of how cheap they are. These filters are made of spun glass and are encased in a cardboard or metal frame. 

These filters do a great job at filtering our large particles, but they are known to not filter smaller particles like dust, pollen, or carpet fibers. I would not suggest using these types of filters if you or a family member suffer from allergies or asthma. 

Even though Fiberglass Air Filters are a known cheaper option, they often require frequent changing due to them becoming clogged up more quickly than other air filter types. 

HEPA Filters

A good choice if you or someone in your family suffer from asthma, allergies, or any other respiratory problems. Defined by the U.S. Department of Energy, HEPA stands for “high-efficiency particulate air(filter).” 

HEPA Filters are the most efficient option of all types of HVAC filters. These filters are higher in cost than fiberglass air filters and pleated filters but are known for being able to remove up to 99.97% of air-born pollutants and allergens in your homes, such as mold, pollen, dust, pet dander, smoke particles, bacteria, and viruses.

Even though HEPA filters are a more expensive option, they do not need to be replaced as often as fiberglass or pleated air filters. Remember to check your manufacturer-recommended MERV rating when purchasing a HEPA filter, and choose the right option for your home. 

UV Filters

May be built into your HVAC system. The UV (Ultraviolet light) disinfects the air that passes through it and helps to kill bacteria such as viruses, mold spores, and bacteria. As effective as UV filters are at killing bacteria and viruses, they do little to nothing to help filter out pollutants like dust and smoke. 

There are many pros and cons to UV filters, but ultimately, if you have concerns about air quality in your home, ask one of our experienced HVAC technicians if UV Filters are a good option for your home. 

Air Filter Sizes

You may be wondering what are the common filter sizes for AC filters or furnace filters. Standard air filters will range from 1 to 6 inches in depth, and come in different lengths and widths based on what size you are needing for your system. 

Choosing the correctly sized air filter for your system is very important because choosing the incorrect size can negatively affect your system by placing unwanted stress on your HVAC system, and raising your energy cost. Make sure you measure the size of the filter your system needs before choosing an air filter for your system. 


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