The types of air filters that are available to consumers provide several easy options to help improve the air quality in the home. But not all air filters are the same. The four air filters we will cover in this post include:
Each one has their own advantages and disadvantages you may want to consider before making a final decisions.
Why The Types of Air Filters Matter
Like books, you can’t really judge the types of air filters by looking at the material or by weighing them in your hand. Each filter type is built differently and may possess certain desirable quality, while others may not meet your expectation.
For example, an air filter that fits your heating and cooling system needs to reduce airborne particles while at the same time allowing for the efficient flow of air through the filter material. Alternatively, a HEPA air filter in a free standing air purifier has a singular purpose: to get as much stuff out of the air no matter how much air flow is restricted.
Another important piece of information about air filters is MERV rating. The MERV rating system is an industry standard developed by American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to improve transparency in the filter industry and make shopping for air filter products easier. Not all manufacturers develop their air filter products to comply with the MERV rating system, but if you want to learn more about this rating system and why it matters, start by reading our MERV Rating Guide!
Read on to learn about each of the four types of air filters
Pleated Air Filters
Pleated air filters use polyester or other synthetic materials that are then bent several times into an accordion shape – hence the name “pleated.” Designing the filter this way to fit more material into a smaller filter size. This helps to increase the life of the filter and reduce more particles from the air.
Reasons to Choose Pleated Air Filters:
- Up to 90 day lifespan
- Greater dirt holding capacity
- Better air flow over the life of the filter
- More filter material when compared to flat filters
- Several MERV options
Pleated air filters offer the latest technology in the air filtration marketplace. These filters have become one of the most popular types of filters for residential, commercial and industrial applications. Their popularity stems from the number of available MERV options for individual needs, their reliability, and value.
Fiberglass Air Filters
Fiberglass air filters are considered the “grandfather” of modern air filters. Many homeowners grew up using them in their heating and cooling system, so they continue to trust them to this day. As far as air filtration goes, these filters are decent at reducing larger dust particles and preventing bugs from spreading through the heating and cooling system, but not much else.
Reasons to Choose a Fiberglass Air Filter:
- Strong air flow
- Proven technology
Reasons not to choose fiberglass air filters include a limited choice of MERV ratings and a usable lifespan of only around 30 days. However, many people will appreciate the higher rate of air flow through the filter material when compared to pleated air products.
HEPA Air Filters
High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) use a mesh filtration material that is layered together that allows the filter to capture up to 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns in size. For comparison, bacteria are between two to five microns, red blood cells are eight microns, and human hair is between 20 and 200 microns. However, these air filters are usually only available to consumers in air purifiers, vacuums, and similar appliances.
Reasons to Choose a HEPA Air Filter:
- Washable HEPA filters can last several years
- Most effective particle reduction for the home
- HEPA Standard is set by the United States Department of Energy.
HEPA filters are used by the medical industry because they are so good at what they. Be careful when shopping for these filters. It is not uncommon to see terminology like “HEPA-like” or “99% HEPA,” which means the filter has not undergone laboratory testing to satisfy particle reduction standards. If you purchase a filter that isn’t “True HEPA,” then the filter may not preform as expected.
Washable Air Filters
Washable air filters, also known as permanent air filters, are made from metal and typically last around five years. These filters either generate an electric charge as air passes through the material or they are plugged into a power source. With this electric charge, the filter is considered effective at capturing a high percentage of dust, but may not be as effective as capturing allergens, emissions, smoke particles or other airborne particles.
Reasons to Choose a Washable Air Filter:
- Can last five or more years
- Easy to wash every 90 days
- Fewer filters to buy
- More environmentally friendly
Some homeowners find that a permanent or washable filter do not reduce as many allergens they like, so they will install a fiberglass or pleated filter behind the permanent filter. While this will provide more efficient filtration, the time and financial investment of operating two filters in the heating and cooling system may not make sense for everyone.
What Do We Recommend?
When it comes down to it, the types of air filters for your home all serve an almost singular purpose: get stuff that you don’t want to breathe out of the air. How each filter accomplishes that goal depends on many factors, and choosing one filter over another may help you reach that goal, or cause you to fall short
For the most complete coverage of the home, we recommend a pleated air filter with a rating of MERV 8, MERV 11 or MERV 13 in you heating and cooling system, and a free standing air purifier that uses a True HEPA air filter. For best results, place the air purifier in the bedroom or areas of the home that see the most use.
Do you have any questions about the types of air filters? Share your comments below!