What are the different furnace filter types and which are best for me?

When it comes to the air quality in your home, it’s hard to imagine putting a cheap, five-dollar filter into your furnace. However, that’s precisely what many homeowners do. A lot of homeowners don’t see the value in spending more money on something they’re going to throw out every few months, but they also fail to recognize why they should be purchasing a more adequate and quality air filter for their furnace. In this post, we’ll talk about the different types of furnace filters and why they should matter to you.

Cheap vs expensive – why get a better filter?

It may be easy and a knee-jerk reaction to go into the store and grab a three pack of furnace filters for twelve dollars. However, those flimsy, barely-there filters can only do the bare minimum when it comes to filtering out the air that goes into your home. Do you want to be breathing in dust, pollen, and other particles in your recycled air? Chances are, you don’t — so why not spring for a furnace filter that fits your needs?

Furnace filters come in a variety of types, and not everyone will have a specific need for the most expensive filter on the market. Still, understanding your options for furnace filters is important so you can make a decision that benefits you and your family.

Understanding airflow

One thing you have to consider is how air flows through your home, and why furnace filters are necessary. Furnace filters have a two-fold job – they both improve air quality in your home, and remove dust, debris, dirt, and more from the air that flows into your furnace (and subsequently out into your home). This means that cheap air filters that don’t trap as much dust and debris as other filters can actually cause your furnace to become less efficient, since it’s now burning dust and debris along with oil or natural gas. The fumes from these tiny particles can then be broadcast into your home… You wouldn’t want that, would you?

What filter should I buy?

Chances are, you’ll want to skip the cheap bulk packs, but if they’re all you have, they’ll do in a pinch to help keep some of the dirt and debris from entering your HVAC system. Consider instead some specific needs of air filters:

Fiberglass/Synthetic Filters

These are the “cheap” options, and they do a pretty good job at capturing dust and debris comparatively to no filter. These can catch about 80% of particles that are 50 microns and larger. But there’s better out there…

Polyester Filters

Polyester filters are the next step up, and can trap filters as small as 5 microns and larger. They are more expensive than fiberglass or synthetic filters, but offer more protection against pollutants.

Electrostatic Filters

Electrostatic filters are great because they use self-charged fibers to pull particles out of the air that passes through. Many times, electrostatic filters are washable, too, so you can get multiple uses out of one filter. If you do wash an electrostatic filter, you must be sure it’s completely dry before reinstalling it into your HVAC system, as a damp filter can mold, which will then push mold or mildew into your home’s air.

HEPA Filters

HEPA filters are the best filter you can get if you’re concerned about pollutants. They can filter out particles as small as .3 microns, which means most pollutants, debris, dust, and allergens can be caught in a HEPA filter. The caveat is that because they filter so finely, it can cause your system to work harder to draw air, which can result in higher electrical costs and a less efficient system.

Pleated Filters

A pleated filter also filters out particles as small at .3 microns, but is formed in such a way that it doesn’t sacrifice airflow to your system. A pleated filter may be the one to go with if you’re concerned about indoor pollutants in your home’s air.

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