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A Quick Guide to Choosing the Right Air Filter

When was the last time you changed the air filter in your HVAC system? Last week? Last month? Last year? Last decade? Air filters need to be regularly changed in order to ensure your HVAC system operates at peak efficiency and continues to provide you with clean, treated air that’s at your ideal temperature. For each home, “regular” may mean something different. Some filters need to be replaced once or twice a year, while other homes may need to change their filter every month, depending on how many contaminants a filter is required to remove.

When the time comes to replace your filter, choosing the right one for your needs may seem like a daunting task. There are so many different choices out there that picking the right one might seem like finding a needle in a haystack. However, it doesn’t have to be.

Here is an extremely short guide to help you pick the right air filter for your home.

Filter Size

The first and arguably most important part about selecting your new filter is to get one that’s the right size. If you’re not sure what that is, simply pull your existing filter out of your system and check its measurements, which are usually listed somewhere on the side. Your HVAC system’s owner’s manual will also probably have this data.

If you don’t have your user’s manual, a brief internet search can probably pull it up. Even if you have a system that’s 20 years old or more, you might be surprised to find out that the manual is probably online somewhere. The manual can also tell you several other important specifications about your filter that you should know.

Filtration Rating

The first thing you’ll probably notice when selecting a filter is a measurement for how it performs. This can come in a number of different formats. The most common is known as a minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV rating. This scale was developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers. The higher the number, the better the filtration.

The Home Depot, the home improvement mega-giant, has its own system known as the Filter Performance Rating or FPR. This is a one-to-ten scale, with ten being the best filtering. Finally, 3M, who manufactures a number of these products, has a scale known as the Micro-Particle Performance Rating, or MPR. Once again, the higher the number, the better the filtration.

However, higher filtration is not always better. Higher filtration values means your air conditioner needs to work harder to force more air through the increasingly smaller holes in the filter. This places a lot of extra stress on your blower fan, blower fan motor, and other hardware, as well as leads to increased energy bills. Consult your owner’s manual for more information about the ideal filtration value your system can best utilize.

Your Personal Needs

Everyone’s home is different and thus has different filtration needs. Do you or someone you live with suffer from severe allergies triggered by dust, pollen, and other airborne contaminants? Then a stronger air filter that removes more of this from the air might be worth the investment. If you don’t really have any special needs, then a hospital-grade air filter with the maximum purification value probably isn’t going to add any value to your life—a standard filter will probably do just fine and you won’t notice any difference whatsoever. Not to mention you won’t have to change it nearly as often.

Likewise, if your home is prone to a lot of air contamination, such as having multiple pets, living with smokers, or living in a particularly dusty climate will result in air filters needing replaced more often. The more often you have to replace your filter, the more likely it is that you’ll want to choose a filter that may be cheaper and easier to purchase in large quantities since you might be swapping it out every few weeks or so.

For more information on choosing the best air filter for your home, contact the Ontario HVAC experts from All Pro Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electrical at (909) 253-0664!

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