How to Make Sure You Have the Right Air Filters for Your Home

Whether you need to turn on the heat or cool down your home, a vital part of maintaining your HVAC system is changing the air filters. That major appliance relies on having the right filter to remove particles from the air while preventing them from gumming up the rest of the system.

All HVAC systems run by drawing air in through the vents in your living space. They pull the air through the ducts and across a heating or cooling source. Then they release it through the supply ducts and vents to provide heated or cooled air into your home. As this happens, particles of dust, pet dander, microbes, and other debris gets sucked in as well.

Without an air filter, the pollutants would continue circulating through your home and into the system, potentially leading to damage. Air filters improve your indoor air quality and keep the system humming along in an optimal way. Therefore, the air filter you choose for your home must be the right kind to ensure the integrity of your system and the purity of your air quality.

Are you wondering how to install an air filter in an HVAC system? Before you get to that point, you need to make sure you get the right air filters for your home.

Understanding How Filtration Is Measured with the MERV Scale

HVAC filters are measured using the minimum efficiency reporting value or MERV scale. The ratings range from MERV 1 through MERV 16. On the lower end of this scale, the filters are composed of materials such as mesh or fiberglass, which makes them capable of capturing larger particles.

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Air filters that have a lower MERV rating tend to be cheaper, but they aren’t as efficient at filtering out the majority of particles from your air. The higher the MERV rating, the better the filter will be at capturing smaller particles like mold spores, dust, pollen, and other contaminants.

For households, MERV 13 is the highest rating available, capable of capturing microscopic particles like viruses and bacteria. However, those filters may not be suitable for all air conditioning systems as they can restrict the airflow.

How to Buy the Right Air Filters to Use in Your HVAC System

If you’ve just bought your home and haven’t yet changed the air filters, the easiest way to pick the right one is to take the filter out and buy one like it. This may not be helpful if the filter currently in place is unavailable or you want one that is more efficient at clearing the air.

In that case, the following steps can help you ensure you pick the right filter for your home.

Determine the Size You Need

If you’re not sure what size air filter you need, you can simply pull out the existing filter. You should be able to find this in a slot located by your air handler or furnace. In some cases, you may have filters located in your return air ducts in various locations throughout your home.

Air filters will be marked with the size, which is measured in length, width, and thickness. If you pull the current filter out and find that there are gaps on the sides or it’s not lining up properly, it is likely the wrong size. You would then need to look in the owner’s manual for your system to determine the correct size.

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In most cases though, you should find that the filter inside is the right fit. You can then take note of the measurements printed on the air filter and find a replacement. Wondering how to install an air filter in an HVAC system? It really shouldn’t be a struggle as it will fit in the slot if you have the right size.

Keep in mind that the thickness is a huge factor when you pick air filters for your home. You will find that most residential HVAC filters will be 1-inch thick, however, some systems may allow for thicker filters.

Consider the Filtration Level

While air filters with the lowest MERV rating aren’t going to help much, you will not want to pick something with too high a filtration level. Anything that is too dense can cause the parts to freeze or overheat.

This is where the thickness of the filter also comes into play. If the filter is too loose in its slot, it can let air and particles through, causing them to coat parts of your HVAC system. Airflow is a huge factor in the proper operation of your air conditioner. You may want to have the static pressure measured, which can be done with the help of an HVAC technician. You can ask them when they come to your home for maintenance service to ensure your system is thriving.

If you need to change your filter before you need HVAC service, choosing a pleated style of air filter with a MERV 8 rating is a safe choice. This type of filter should still allow plenty of air to get through while capturing more particles than basic filters.

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Some systems may have a filter cabinet that can contain a filter that is 4 inches thick or more. In this case, your system may be able to handle a MERV 13 filter, but it is still advisable to ask an HVAC professional to be on the safe side.

Where to Buy the Right Air Filters

After you have determined the correct size you need and have found an appropriate MERV rating that won’t impede your system’s function, you can buy more air filters. Some people go to the hardware store for them, but often, the name brands for the major air conditioners can be expensive.

It’s also a hassle to go from store to store and find that your specific size isn’t in stock. A better way is to order filters online. You can be sure you’ll get the right size and still get quality air filters without paying an arm and a leg for a name brand. Additionally, you can buy them in bulk, which keeps you from running out of filters at the most inopportune times.

How to Install an HVAC Air Filter Properly

Installing your air filter properly isn’t a hard task, though it will depend on your setup. You may need to use a screwdriver or another tool to open up the hatch or cover of the filter slot, or it may be as simple as sliding it open.

Once you have the air filter slot open, you can remove the old filter to dispose of it. Then you can slide your new air filter right in so it can improve your indoor air quality and HVAC system functionality.

Make sure you take note of the proper direction to install your replacement air filter. They all come with directional arrows on the frame that reveal the direction of the airflow. It is important that you put the air filter in the slot facing the proper direction.

After performing this household chore once, you’ll know exactly how to do it right every time. Always check your air filters to keep them from getting too dirty and causing system issues.