Trying to select the right air filter for your West Palm Beach home can be a daunting experience. What does my system require? Should you just get the cheapest? These are just a couple of the questions that make the selection mind-boggling. Let Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning try to help you de-mystify the air filter dilemma.
Here’s a simple way to tell how efficient your existing filter is (NOTE: To avoid a big mess, we highly recommend conducting this test outside or over a protected surface): Position the filter horizontally, then using common table salt, begin to pour the salt through the filter and see the quantity that comes out the other side. If some or all the salt falls through the filter, then you know that the filter will let dust particles of similar size pass through. You might want to upgrade your filter to higher quality filter that is more efficient.
Home air filter selection depends primarily on three factors: Size, material and MERV rating.
1) Filter Size
Size is the easiest factor to ascertain. Simply look at the label of your existing filter to see the dimensions, or just measure it yourself. The majority of home air filters are 1” thick, but there are a numerous standard width and height dimensions, and some systems have thicker filters.
2) Material & MERV Rating
The efficiencies of filters are rated on a scale of 16, known as MERV ratings. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This number tells the user, under the least efficient conditions, how well the filter is designed to contain contaminants.
To help explain the scale of this system, these are some common MERV ratings and how they connect to efficiencies. This is only a guide, so be sure to read the filter manufacturers’ information when shopping for specific filters.
Rating Average Filtration Efficiency
MERV 1-4 60-80%
Fiberglass, Disposable Panel, Washable metal/synthetic, self-charging (Passive)
MERV 5-8 80-95%
Pleated, Media panel, Cube
MERV 9-12 >95%
MERV 13-16 >98%
Be Careful About High MERV Ratings
While a higher MERV number may ensure better filtration efficiency, it is extremely important to understand that too high a MERV filter may also take more to operate your HVAC system. The higher the MERV, the more restricted the air may flow through the system, and the harder the system may need to work. Your objective should be to get the right balance between air flow, air filtration level and energy efficiency.
Consider it this way, the most efficient ‘filter’ would actually be a piece of plywood that would just trap ALL contaminants and all the air from entering your West Palm Beach home. That's all-out air filtration, but would also be like living in a box.
Your best bet for most systems would be a MERV 6-8. A higher MERV filter should be used subject to the advice of your Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning representative to confirm your system has the capability of moving the suitable volume of air through higher efficiency filters. You generally do not want to sacrifice energy-efficiency for filter efficiency; you want a balance of the two. However, if your family has allergies or respiratory problems and needs a high MERV air filter, consider a whole-home air filtration solution that will satisfy your energy and filter efficiency needs.
Filtration has changed considerably over the past few years. Initially, home air filters were used in the furnace or air handler only to shelter the comfort equipment itself. But (in the words of Bob Dylan) the times they are a changing. West Palm Beach area homeowners expect their air filter to save kids from a whole host of harmful pollutants, dust mites, and even prevent the need for dusting. Dare to dream!