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A Simple Guide to Home Air Filtration

In this guide:

  1. Why Is Clean Indoor Air Important?
  2. Types of Furnace Filters
    1. Reusable/Washable Air Filters
    2. Standard Panel Fiberglass AC Filters
    3. Pleated Furnace Filters
    4. Electrostatic Air Conditioning Filters
    5. HEPA Filters
    6. Electronic Air Cleaners
  3. All About MERV
  4. Air Purifiers
  5. Humidifiers
  6. Other Tips for Good Indoor Air Quality

Why Is Clean Indoor Air Important?

People spend the majority of their time indoors. The health risk associated with indoor air pollution is a serious concern. There are many factors that may contribute to poor indoor air quality. Furnishings, carpets and even walls can house allergens, dirt, dust, mold and smoke. Breathing in these pollutants daily can lead to asthma and other respiratory problems, and may even increase one's risk for heart disease. Indoor air pollution in the work place has been known to cause "sick building syndrome." In order to avoid the health risks associated with poor indoor air quality, it is important to take steps to ensure the air inside your home is free from viruses, bacteria, allergens and disease-carrying particles. The first step is to install good, quality furnace filters in your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

Types of Furnace Filters

There are several different types of air conditioning filters, or furnace filters. Generally, the higher quality air filters will be more expensive, but they are worth the investment, when you consider the costs you will save on the maintenance and repair of your HVAC system. Here are the basic types of AC filters you can purchase:

Reusable/Washable Air Filters

People may opt for reusable air filters for a number of reasons. It sounds like an attractive deal, since the cost on disposable filters can add up. However, these filters are generally not as efficient at removing unwanted contaminants from your indoor air. Not to mention, the cleaning process is a dirty and time-consuming ordeal. You must find a suitable area for cleaning, remove the filter and rinse it with water or a suitable cleaner. Often these cleaners may contain toxic chemicals, which can be absorbed by the filter and recirculated through your indoor air once your filter is replaced in the system. You must also make sure the filter is dry, before replacing it, as a wet filter can introduce mold into your indoor air, causing further health hazards. The only upside to purchasing a reusable filter is the reduction of environmental waste. If your goal is environmental sustainability, you may opt for a washable air filter instead of a disposable one. However, if your primary goal is to ensure a healthy indoor environment for you and your family, the hassle of cleaning these furnace filters may not be worth the risk, as these are not as efficient as some other, disposable options. Filters Fast does not carry any reusable or washable air filters for your HVAC system.

Standard Panel Fiberglass AC Filters

Fiberglass air filters are marketed as a cheaper option to other air filters, but they are not only inexpensive; they are also of cheap quality. They let in large particles and pet hair, which stick to the coils in your HVAC system, decreasing its efficiency over time. Furthermore, these filters are made with fiberglass media, housed in a rigid panel, which begins to degrade soon after being inserted into your heating and cooling system. This fiberglass may then end up in your system and ultimately in your indoor air, subjecting you to further health risks. For more information on how a fiberglass filter can end up costing you thousands in HVAC maintenance and repair costs, check out our Premium $2,000 Fiberglass Air Filter.

Pleated Furnace Filters

Pleated furnace filters are a significant upgrade in quality from the standard flat fiberglass air filters. These are typically made of a woven polyester fabric-like material, which is tight enough to filter out much smaller particles. Like fiberglass filters, the media is housed inside a rigid panel, but is pleated to provide a much larger surface area for filtration. As a result, these furnace filters are more efficient at cleaning your indoor air than the previous two types, ultimately extending the efficiency and life of your HVAC system.

Electrostatic Air Conditioning Filters

Electrostatic AC filters are also made of pleated material, but are even more efficient than regular pleated air filters, because the filter media is electrically charged. It, therefore, acts as a magnet, drawing more particulate matter for more efficient indoor air filtration. These filters also inihibt the growth of bacteria, which is a problem common to many other types of filters. Filters Fast carries a variety of electrostatic furnace filters made by popular manufacturers like 3M Filtrete.

HEPA Filters

HEPA filters are typically for use in external air purifiers, which you can purchase to purify the air inside individual rooms of your home. HEPA stands for high efficiency particulate air, and these are some of the most efficient filters you can buy. These advanced air filters are able to trap 99.97 percent of contaminants including pet dander, dust and smoke.

Electronic Air Cleaners

Electronic air filters function much like electrostatic filters, but are more effective. They are able to trap up to 95 percent of airborne contaminants. These are usually recommended for people with allergies, sinus and respiratory problems. Electronic air cleaners mount directly to the duct work in your HVAC system, so that recirculated air passes through. A fan pulls larger particles like pet hair and lint into the mesh prefilter. Then a high-voltage ionizer charges airborne contaminants like bacteria and viruses, causing them to stick to the collection plate, preventing them from being recirculated through your indoor air.

All About MERV

MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, and is a rating scale used to rate the effciency of air filters. MERV ratings range from 1 to 16, and the higher the rating, the more efficient the filter will be at reducing indoor air contaminants. Higher MERV values correspond to a greater percentage of particles being captured each time air moves through your heating and cooling system.

Standard panel filters typically have a MERV rating of 1 to 4, and are not efficient at capturing smaller particles. These filters will not capture anything smaller than 10 microns.

Pleated filters typically have a MERV rating of 5 to 8 and will capture particles as small as 3 microns in size.

Pleated electrostatic furnace filters range from MERV 9 to 12 and are some of the most efficient HVAC filters for residential use.

The most efficient filters have a MERV rating of 13 to 16 and will capture particles as small as 0.3 microns. These filters are most often found in hospitals and other commercial sanitary environments. HEPA filters usually fall under this category. 

Air Purifiers

Filters Fast recommends investing in a variety of clean air solutions for your home, especially if you have pets or a high sensitivity to allergens. External air purifiers, combined with quality air filtration in your heating and cooling system, can help to ensure cleaner air for you and your loved ones. Air purifier systems may be purchased for small or large rooms, and are highly recommended for nurseries and children's rooms, since they are more prone to sickness. These typically use HEPA filtration, and are effective at capturing tiny particles like pollen, dust, mold spores, dust mite debris, pet dander, bacteria-carrying particles, virus-carrying particles, smoke and more. Most air purifiers have several fan speeds allowing you to personalize the sound and filtration levels to suit your needs. It is best to purchase an air purifier that does not generate harmful ozone.


A humidifier helps to supply indoor moisture in the home, to assist with breathing and prevent dry skin, chapped lips, nasal congestion, cough, sinus irritation, and other problems associated with low humidity. These are also recommended for use in children's rooms. It is important to keep the humidity in your home at an optimal level (between 40 and 50 percent) for good indoor air quality. Too much moisture can lead to mold problems, and too little moisture can cause respiratory and skin irritation. Below 50 percent is recommended to help control dust mites for bad allergy sufferers.

Other Tips for Good Indoor Air Quality

In addition to investing in quality air filters, air purifiers and humidifiers, and cleaning and changing your filters on a regular basis, there are several other ways to help keep the indoor air in your home free from unwanted contaminants:

1.  Invest in eco-friendly furnishings. These may be more expensive, but worth the investment, as many wood furnishings emit formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals. Pressed wood, coated with a polyurethane finish, will not emit toxins into your indoor air. Hardwood floors are also better than wall-to-wall carpet. Carpet easily traps dust mites and other allergens. Invest in draperies and floor tiles that do not contain asbestos and are formaldehyde-free.

2.  Use natural, eco-friendly cleaning products. Popular cleaning products often contain carcinogenic chemicals. Vinegar, baking soda and lemon are homemade solutions and can clean almost any kitchen surface naturally, without the risk of breathing in toxins. Non-toxic cleaning products are also available to buy at the store.

3.  Clean, vacuum and dust consistently. Filters Fast carries HEPA vacuum cleaner filters, bags and belts. Replacing these items regularly helps to ensure a cleaner indoor environment while extending the life of your vacuum cleaner. Dusting helps rid your home of dust mites and other allergens as well.

4.  Use the hood vent above your stove, while cooking. Most people neglect this, but it makes a world of difference, as it works to eliminate smoke and cooking odors from the air inside your kitchen. Also make sure you clean and change the microwave and hood range filters regularly.

5.  Leave shower doors and curtains open after showering, to prevent mildew and mold growth.

6.  Burn candles sparingly, if at all; use non-toxic deodorizers, and don't smoke inside the house.

7.  Maintain optimal temperature and humidity with a programmable thermostat.

8.  Get your home tested for radon.

9.  Avoid lead-based paint.

10. Wash all bedding in hot water, once a week.

Take our Home Indoor Air Quality Quiz now to determine the overall state of your indoor air.

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