One of the most important elements of your air conditioning system is the filter. It's also the easiest and least expensive item that you can maintain. Not all filters are created equal and you'll find a range of prices. Here is how to pick out the best AC filter for your home.
The Filter is on the Front Line
Here is how most air conditioning units for the home work:
- A blower motor brings in air from the house through the filter.
- This air passes through the blower into the air conditioning unit.
- The AC coils cool the air and remove some of the humidity.
- This cool air is forced back into your home through the ductwork and vents.
The air filter is the first component through which the air passes on its way to be cooled. The filter removes particles and debris which could clog up the blower. Without the filter, the blower motor become dirty and burn out, creating an expensive repair.
The filter also removes contaminates that can end up in your lungs. These are two reasons why using the right filter in your AC system is important.
Your Filter Choices
- Woven fiberglass filters - These are the least expensive filters. They also filter out the least amount of debris. They are good for capturing large particles that can hurt the blower motor. They'll also remove larger pollen and mold spores from the air. If you live in an area with a very low pollen count, low humidity and you don't own pets, these filters will work for you. While inexpensive, these filters do need to be changed every few weeks.
- Pleated filters - These filters have ridges that look like an accordion. This creates more surface area than the flat woven filters to catch air pollutants and debris. They capture smaller particles which means you're breathing in fewer pollutants into your lungs. These filters are medium range in price, but they will last several months in the average household.
- Electrostatic filters - These are premium filters, and they are the most expensive. They are a pleated filter with smaller pores to capture more pollutants from the air. These will filter out pollen, mold, pet hair and dander, bacteria, smoke and odors. They are the best filter for a household with pets, and with a family member who has asthma. These filters can last several months between changes, especially if you periodically vacuum and rinse them off.
Look for the MERV Rating
Filter manufacturers give their products a minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV, rating which indicates how effective their filters are. If you're having difficulty deciding on filters, the MERV rating can help you choose. More effective filters get a higher MERV rating.