What to Look for in Air Filters
In the same way that we filter our water and the people we see on our Facebook feed, we filter our air with assorted brands, shapes, and sizes of air filters. The wide variety of filter choices available creates a problem when looking for which one is best suited for your family. We have created a quick guide to help you figure out what to look for in an air filter so you can determine which ones could work for your home.
Material – Let’s address a crucial point: you should be changing your air filter regularly! (Check out our article on this topic here.) You may be thinking, what does “regularly” switching out my air filter look like? The answer to that depends on the material it is made of.
The first thing to look for in an air filter is the material used to make it. The most commonly used filters are made either of fiberglass or a fabric/paper combination. About an inch thick of spun fiberglass is used to make very inexpensive air filters. They are cheap and disposable because they do the most basic task a filter can do: remove dust from the air. If you do not have hairy pets or any breathing problems, this filter will work for you. The fiberglass filters should be changed about once a month.
Other filters made of pleated fabric sheets use either polyester or cotton. These filters are better at trapping particles than their fiberglass counterparts. Fabric filters can either be disposable or reusable; the reusable ones require hand-washing and will last about six years when properly cared for. The disposable fabric filters should be changed every few months, but that could be adjusted based on the thickness of the filter.
Who is MERV?
The other thing to look at when choosing a filter is its MERV rating. The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value is a scale that measures the effectivity of filters. The MERV scale goes from 1 to 20, but most homes only use filters ranging between 1 and 13. Varied brands carrying filters of the same material could have different MERV ratings, but for reference, here are the MERV ratings for each filter type we reviewed:
MERV 1-4: Fiberglass filters
MERV 5-13: Fabric filters (The average for disposable is 10 and reusable is 8.)