Air Filters for House: 9 Things (2024) You Should Know

Did you know that you’re supposed to change the air filter for your house?

Many homeowners don’t until they have an HVAC tech out to their house and realize that the filter has never been changed.

In general, air filters for houses should be replaced around every 90 days or 3 months.

However, not everyone does this for a variety of reasons.

They don’t know that they’re supposed to do it, and they aren’t sure what filters to buy.

If you’re wondering how to approach air filters for your houses, here’s what you need to know.

1. What is an air filter?

An air filter is a device composed of porous material that removes solid particulates from the air.

These particulates may include dust, pollen, dirt, bacteria, etc.

The basic function of air filters for houses is to clean the air that circulates through a home heating and cooling system.

This prevents particulates from impacting your health and comfort.

That said, many people misunderstand the purpose of an air filter.

It isn’t intended to purify the air you breathe.

Rather, it’s meant to protect the sensitive components of an HVAC system.

Additionally, air filters aren’t designed to filter the air forever, and they will eventually fill up with dirt and dust.

This is why you must clean and change the filter regularly.

2. What happens if you don’t clean your house’s air filter?

Some people forget to change the air filter in their house for months.

But this isn’t good for anyone.

It isn’t good for you (the person breathing the air in the house), and it isn’t good for your HVAC system either.

Dust will enter the moving parts of the AC like the fan motors and valves, causing them to jam.

Airflow will also restrict them and create strain on the system.

The dust ultimately makes the unit less efficient and leads to breakdowns.

3. What are the different types of air filters?

There are seven main types of air filters.

The primary difference between these filters is their ability to sift out airborne pollutants present in your home.

This capability depends on two factors: the type and layout of the material used.

Here’s what you should know about the different types of air filters for houses before you choose which one is best.

bulletSpun glass or fiberglass air filters

These filters are also called flat-paneled filters, and they are one of the most common types of HVAC filters because they’re affordable.

They consist of strands of glass spun together that are reinforced by a metal grate.

The glass fibers are mostly fiberglass.

With that, these filters don’t do much for your indoor air quality.

They can only filter about 20 percent of particles that are around 3.0 to 10.0 microns in size.

Particles of this size include dust, carpet fibers, and pollens.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive option, then this is your best bet.

They’ll help you keep debris like lint and dust out of your home.

However, they won’t capture smaller particles or help you purify your air.

They can also become clogged easily which means they require regular maintenance and replacement.

bulletPleated filters

Pleated filters are made of either polyester or cotton.

The material is arranged in folds to increase the surface area of the filter.

The filters that have more pleats are more effective than the ones with fewer pleats.

While pleated filters are more expensive than fiberglass filters, they’re also more effective.

They’re able to capture smaller air pollutants (pollen, pet dander, mold spores, etc.).

You can also purchase them in reusable versions which are better for the environment and help to reduce the overall cost.

Keep in mind that filters with more pleats (while more effective) will also restrict airflow.

bulletHEPA filters

These filters are one of the most efficient HVAC filters, removing 99.97 percent of air-borne pollutants and allergens in homes.

These allergens include dust, mold, pollen, pet dander, viruses, smoke particles, and bacteria.

HEPA filters are most popular with people who have an air conditioner allergy and other respiratory problems.

Unfortunately, these filters are more expensive than both fiberglass and pleated filters which can prompt homeowners to look at other options.

If you’re worried about the pricing, don’t forget that the filters only need replacement every few years.

This makes them pretty cost-effective and low maintenance in the long run.

A drawback of these filters is that they might restrict airflow due to their high filtering ability.

This will cause your HVAC system’s efficiency to drop.

Additionally, smaller particles like smoke, fumes, and gasses can still pass through.

bulletUV light filters

These filters are a great way to kill bacteria and viruses using short-wave UV light.

The air is disinfected by germicidal radiation from the UV lamp.

These filters are ideal for getting rid of harmful microorganisms like mold spores.

That said, they aren’t perfect.

UV filters may convert oxygen molecules into ozone molecules.

Ozone molecules can have minor health concerns in small amounts — coughing, chest pain, etc.

However, in larger quantities, it can exaggerate existing conditions like asthma and respiratory diseases.

UV light filters remove bacteria and viruses from the air, but they aren’t great against pollutants like dust.

So, they typically work together with a more advanced filtration mechanism like HEPA filters.

If you’re looking for a filter that works against dust, smoke, fumes, etc., then this isn’t your best option (and it’s also pricey for what it offers!).

bulletElectrostatic filters

An electrostatic filter creates static electricity by using a mixture of cotton and paper fibers.

The static acts as a magnet for pollutants and traps them in the filter screen.

This prevents the allergens from spreading in your home.

If you or someone in your home has allergies, then this is a great filter to use.

These filters normally have a carbon filter, which can be flat-paneled or pleated, for improved efficiency.

Electrostatic filters also come in either washable or disposable versions.

One of the best advantages of these filters is that they are affordable.

They can also be reusable which allows you to reduce costs.

However, while they’re able to trap smaller particles, larger particles (i.e., mold spores or dust) can be an issue.

bulletWashable filters

Washable filters are available in flat and pleated varieties.

They are more expensive than disposable filters, but will also save you more money overall.

Many people like using them in their homes because they are more environmentally friendly and sustainable as they aren’t disposable.

When you need to “switch” the filter, you can instead vacuum or rinse them to remove dirt.

Before installing the filter, it must be fully dry.

Otherwise, you can introduce mold and bacteria which will harm your indoor air quality.

A major con of these filters is that they require regular maintenance to ensure they are effective.

They also can’t hold up against odors, and they only work for dust and similar contaminants.

bulletMedia filters

This type of filter is made of a paper-like material that’s folded into pleats inside a metal cabinet.

The filter itself is no wider than six inches.

However, the pleated material can cover 75 square feet when unfolded.

This increased surface makes media filters seven times more effective than standard filter types.

The higher the surface area a filter has the longer it will last.

Media filters last up to 2 years depending on the environment they’re in.

They’re often recommended for people working in industrial zones or those with weak immune systems.

A pro of media filters is that they’re low maintenance since you only need to change them once or twice a year.

They’re also incredibly effective at trapping most pollutants in their folds.

That said, you’ll need a professional to install them, which can be an additional step and expense.

They also don’t filter out odors.

4. How often should you change your air filters?

Most air filter manufacturers and HVAC companies recommend changing air filters every 90 days.

This timeline can change based on your home’s location, whether you have any pets, the age of your system, etc.

If you have pets, you should consider changing the air filter every 60 days.

If you have multiple pets or pets with allergies and respiratory conditions, every 20 to 45 days can help keep the air in your house in better shape.

Vacation homes (or homes that are vacant throughout much of the year) don’t need their air filters changed as frequently.

You can change these every 9 to 12 months.

In general, the more you use your home, the more you’ll need to change your air filter.

5. Do air filters for houses really make a difference?

Yes, air filters do make a difference by improving air quality within the home and protecting your HVAC system from damage.

However, some air filters for houses are better than others, so you’ll want to do your research and select the one best suited for your needs.

6. Is it worth buying better air filters for your house?

Yes, air filters can be worth the extra money, especially if someone in your household has severe allergies.

Not all air filters for houses are created equally, and having one that’ll filter out dust mites, pollen, pet dander, mold, bacteria, etc. can truly make a difference.

Higher-quality air filters often require less maintenance as well.

7. What filters do HVAC techs recommend?

Most HVAC replacement companies will recommend HEPA filters.

This type of filter provides the highest level of protection when it comes to airborne particles.

HEPA filters have a MERV air filter rating between 17 and 20, which means they can capture small microns like smoke and bacteria.

8. How do I know if my home air filters need changing?

Are you wondering how you’ll know when your air filter will need to be serviced?

Have you lost track of the last time you did it?

Here are five signs that your air filter must be replaced.

bulletThere’s dust and dirt around the vents

If you can look up at your vent and see dust and dirt collecting around it, then it may be time to swap out the air filter.

This collection occurs when particulates exit the vent and collect on furniture and surfaces in your home.

Additionally, if your home is dustier than usual, then this can also be a sign of a clogged filter.

Don’t ignore these signs, instead, get to the root of the issue!

bulletThe filter looks dirty or clogged

This is an easy way to find out if you need to replace your filter.

The filter itself will give you a visual indication — being coated with dust, looking clogged, or being torn and otherwise damaged.

When you have a clogged filter, it’ll restrict airflow, and your system will have a hard time maintaining the proper temperature.

bulletThere’s an increase in the electricity bill

If your power bill has recently increased but your local electrical company hasn’t raised its rates, then it may be the AC system that’s working harder to maintain the set temperature throughout the home.

Look at your filter to see if it needs to be changed.

This is a simple and effective way to address this issue.

bulletIt takes longer to heat or cool your home

If your home isn’t warming up as easily as it once did or the air from the vents is warm instead of cool, then there may be a dirty filter limiting the amount of air that can circulate through the HVAC system.

Check your filter to see if that’s the issue.

bulletThe AC unit is hot

When the filter is clogged, the system will have to work harder to compensate.

This will heat the unit up.

If you notice that your AC unit feels hot, check for a dirty filter as soon as possible.

Replacing it should fix the problem.

9. What is a MERV rating?

A filter’s MERV rating indicates how well it removes particles like dust, allergens, and microorganisms.

It stands for the air filter’s minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), measuring how well it stops dust and other contaminants from passing through the filter and into the air stream.

If a filter has a higher MERV rating, it traps small particles more effectively than filters with lower MERV ratings.

Filters with a rating of MERV 16 or below are considered to be HVAC-system-grade filters for residential, commercial, and general hospital use.

MERV 17 and MERV 20 filters are used in other contexts that require absolute cleanliness.

Examples include surgical operating rooms and clean rooms.

Keep in mind that higher MERV ratings are not always better when selecting air filters for houses.

Using an air filter with a MERV rating higher than what your furnace or air conditioner manufacturer recommends can actually harm its performance.

This is because smaller pores in more highly rated air filters create resistance to airflow.

If the filter is used in an HVAC system and it isn’t designed to handle this resistance, it’ll lower the system’s efficiency, decrease indoor air quality, and strain the system’s fan.

Final Thoughts

Which air filter is right for your house?

There are plenty of options and figuring out what works for you can ensure you’re breathing in high-quality air where you spend the most time.

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Erika Gokce Capital

Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.


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