When Filters Don’t Filter: Choosing the Right Air Filter For Your Home or Business

So you’ve invested in a top-notch HVAC system, and you settle in to let it do its job. But wait, not so fast!

Whether you own a home or oversee a business, you’ll need to ensure that your HVAC system continues to run as efficiently as it did on Day One. To do this, preventative maintenance will be key, and certain parts will need to be changed more than others. Arguably the most critical of these, your air filter will require regular replacement. But when do you know it’s time, and what are you looking for when it is?


Above all else, an effective air filter is clean. Your lifestyle and household will have a great impact, and while a single-occupancy apartment may only need annual replacement, a multi-person multi-pet home would do much better with monthly. Visually check your filter to see whether it’s time for a change, and take note of how the actual air quality in your space feels.


Filters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and you’ll want to make sure that you buy the right one. Check the frame of your existing filter to find the right size, checking both thickness and total surface area. In a pinch, a tight fit is better than gaps around the edge.


Filters come in a variety of materials, and can be either disposable or washable. Each filter will offer varying performance levels and maintenance requirements, and you’ll want to ensure that you purchase the correct type for your system. Overall, disposable filters will be cheaper up front but require frequent replacement, while washable filters will last for years on end.

Efficiency (MERV)

Short for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, the MERV score of your filter indicates both the size particle it can trap and its overall efficiency. Residential filters typically range from 1 to 13, while High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance [HEPA] filters are reserved for industrial use and can run as high as 20. Bear in mind that the higher the MERV, the lower the airflow, as your filter will have to work harder, potentially costing more to run your system. Most homes can run on a MERV score of 5 to 8.

When all else fails, revert to your manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure that you give your air filter the care it deserves – or better yet, call in a professional to take a look. For inspection and installation that you can trust, contact the seasoned team of techs at First Choice Heating and Cooling. Proud to be a premier provider of New Jersey’s residential and commercial HVAC needs, we invite home and business owners alike in.

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