Which Air Filter Is Right For Me?

air filter

Shortly before this new fangled world we find ourselves in, I visited a local big box store with my daughter on the hunt for a special toy. While strolling the aisles, I happened upon a customer debating on which type of air filter they should purchase for their home.  The HVAC service provider in me wanted to jump in and educate the customer on which filter was best for their heating and cooling needs, if it wasn’t for the pressing matter of aiding in my daughter’s toy selection, I might have!

This caused me to reflect upon the fact that most homeowners are forced to rely solely on the filters available to them at their local stores without knowledge of how the filter will affect their comfort and (possibly more concerning) utility bills.  The typical filter you see will advertise allergen removal and clean living.  However, what’s not mentioned is, more often than not these filters are causing one major issue to their system: airflow restriction.

Typical 1″ Pleated Filter

Most commonly found is the typical 1 inch pleated filter, and while it might fit in your filter compartment, it is, unfortunately, not designed for the heating and cooling system you have.  Yes, like I said, the dimensions of the filter are correct, however, the amount of air flow that the filter is designed for typically does not match up with the amount of air flow that is required for your heating and cooling system to operate properly.

When air flow is restricted through your heating and cooling system, it causes extra stress on the major components inside the equipment.  A few examples: reduced air flow can cause fan motor failure, premature heat exchanger failure, freeze ups during air conditioner operation, increased utility bills from longer equipment run time, reduction of comfort to areas of your home… the list goes on and on.

So, what are the options?  If we want clean air, will a filter always cause damage to a heating and cooling system?

No, there’s good news! There are plenty of options to prevent loss of air flow in the home.  You just need to sift through your options because some can sacrifice air quality. While others, on the other (and much more superior) hand, will vastly improve the air quality in your home. The following is a list of options you can choose from that are right for your home and your budget.

Fiberglass Filters

Pros:  Low cost filter option, does not restrict air flow

Cons:  Poor removal of dust/allergens, allows equipment to get dirty over time

Fiberglass filters are very inexpensive and do not restrict air flow in your HVAC equipment.  However, a lot of particles in the air will get past these filters and accumulate in your fan wheel, cooling coils and duct work.  In addition, these particles will circulate back into the air you are breathing.

Multiple Pleaded Filters

Pros: Improved air quality in the home

Cons: Duct work modifications required to install multiple filters next to each other, higher cost associated with 1-inch pleated filters

Multiple one-inch pleated filters will improve air quality and only be slightly restrictive when two are installed at an angle inside a filter compartment.  The downside is, your filter compartment will have to be modified and the cost of one-inch pleated filters will be high throughout the course of the year.

4″ Media Cabinet

Pros:  Minimal air flow restriction, high level of air quality in home

Cons:  High initial cost of media cabinet installation

4-inch media cabinets are great for increased air quality without air flow restriction and typically require only one filter change per year.  While the initial installation cost may seem high for the customer, the improved equipment performance will compensate these costs over time.

Polarized Media Air Cleaner

Pros: Minimal airflow restrictions, ultimate level of air quality in home, easy installation, fits existing filter compartment

Cons: High initial cost, replacement medias expensive

Polarized media air cleaners are the best option for ultimate air quality with minimal air flow restriction.  These units are great for homes where you or a family member has allergies or asthma problems.  The high level of air cleaning comes at a cost of the high initial price of the filter unit and the higher cost of the replacement media cartridges that need replacement 3 times per year.

So which filter is right for you?  

My best recommendation depends on the circumstances you face. For instance, if someone in your home has allergies and/or asthma problems, you should absolutely consider a polarized media filter.  The cost of owning this unit is well worth the comfort and clean air you will have in your home.   

If no breathing issues exist, the four-inch media air cleaner is your best option. It will maintain clean heating and cooling equipment and cleaner air in your home.  Both options will allow for proper air flow and help protect the life of your HVAC system.

I cannot stress enough the importance of proper air flow for your comfort, utility savings and longevity of your heating and cooling equipment.

If you would like a professional opinion for your home, a Jackson Comfort Service Provider can visit your home and determine if you have proper air flow and appropriate filtration for your heating and cooling system.  It would be our honor to assist you with optimizing your utility bills, protecting your heating and cooling equipment and maximizing the comfort in your home!

So, the next time you need to replace that air filter, please consider:  Is this air filter right for me?

Nolan Sarandou

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