Trying to select the right air filter for your Calgary home can be a daunting experience. Which brand is best? Does the price reflect the quality? These are just a couple of the questions that make the selection mind-boggling. Let Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning crack the code of home air filters for you, so you can feel comfortable with your purchase.
Here’s a simple way to determine how efficient your current filter is (NOTE: To avoid a big mess, we highly recommend conducting this test outside or over a protected surface): Hold the filter horizontally, then with standard table salt, begin to pour the salt through the filter to see the amount 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 an air filter that’s more efficient.
Size, MERV rating and material – these are the three primary factors used to pick the proper air filter for your home.
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. Most home air filters are 1” thick, but there are a number of standard width and height dimensions, and some systems have thicker filters.
2) Material & MERV Rating
MERV ratings are the efficiencies of the filter on a scale of 16. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This number tells the user, under the least efficient conditions, how well the filter is designed to hold contaminants.
To explain MERV ratings more impactfully, these are some common MERV ratings and how they connect to efficiencies. This is only a guide, so make sure you 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 provide better filtration efficiency, it is critical to understand that too high a MERV filter may also take more to operate your heating and air conditioning 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 probably be a piece of plywood that prevents ALL contaminants and all the air from coming inside your Calgary 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 service advisor to confirm your system has the capability of moving the proper quantity of air through higher efficiency filters. You generally do not want to give up energy-efficiency for filter efficiency; you want a balance of the two. However, if your family deals with allergies or respiratory problems and a high MERV rated filter is required, consider a whole-home air filtration solution that will satisfy your energy and filter efficiency needs.
Filtration has changed greatly over the past ten years. In the beginning, home air filters were used in the furnace or air handler only to shelter the comfort equipment itself. The story is different today. Calgary area homeowners expect their air filter to save children from a wide variety of harmful pollutants, dust mites, and even prevent the need for dusting. Dare to dream!