How Materials Affect Air Filters

February 27 2015
Tagged in Home Air Filters
How Materials Affect Air Filters

You might already know that HVAC filters work to remove the dust and debris from the atmosphere of your home to help improve the overall air quality. What you might not know, however, is that the type of material that your filter is made out of also affects how effectively the filter removes pollutants from the air.

Each furnace filter is rated on a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) scale and, if the number is closer to 20, then the more effective it is. Though, different filter materials usually have different MERV ratings as well, as some are better are improving Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) than others. In this article, we take a look at the three main materials that you’ll usually find furnace filters to be made out of, and we break down just how useful they really are.


Fiberglass Filters

Starting at the lower end of the MERV scale, we have fiberglass filters. Now, fiberglass filters are incredibly common, and these are the filters that you’ll usually find in a lot of furnaces, but they’re not all that great at removing pollutants from the air within your home. This is due to the fact that they usually have a MERV rating up to about four, which is obviously quite low.

These filters are good if you’re looking to protect your furnace from dust and debris, and you don’t really have any major respiratory problems that are triggered by chemicals or debris that may be lingering in the atmosphere of your house. One of the biggest benefits of fiberglass filters are that they’re very inexpensive so, when it comes to the time to replace them, you don’t need to worry about spending a fortune.


Pleated Fabric Filters

Pleated fabric filters are also another common filter that you’ll find in some furnace filters. These filters are indeed made out of fabric, rather than fiberglass, and, in turn, their MERV ratings are higher. Typically made out of polyester or cotton paper sheets, these filters usually have a MERV rating up to 13. This is down to the fact that these filters are better at trapping and removing particles from the air inside your home and they’re effectively better at improving IAQ.

Cotton furnace filters are slightly more expensive than polyester furnace filters as their fibers have the ability to self-charge and remove smaller particles which may be trickier to remove from the air using a polyester furnace filter alone. These types of pleated fabric filters are better to use if you suffer from air-borne allergies or other respiratory problems, as they’re going to actually be able to capture the pollutants and filter them out.


Electrostatic Filters

A sub-type within the pleated filters are electrostatic filters. The majority of what we carry in-stock are disposable electrostatic filters. Built to capture both large and small particles, electrostatic filters provide a viable option for sensitive noses. Most disposable electrostatic filters should be changed every 90 days. So while filters will vary, materials will ultimately determine how effective each filter can be and how long each will last. For individuals with strong allergies and asthma, a higher-end filter is recommended, but for men with light allergies, a fiberglass filter may suffice.


pleated air filter


Washable Fabric Filters

Washable fabric filters are the main option for long-life HVAC filters. You typically won’t find these as commonly as pleated fabric filters that have to be replaced, but these are also an option for those who don’t want to have to purchase new filters that often. Typically, washable fabric filters are rated about eight on the MERV scale, so they might not be as efficient as regular replaceable pleated fabric filters. While they can last up to eight years, they aren’t a favorite of homeowners. This is simply because they’ve got a reputation of developing fungus and bacteria, which somewhat defeats the purpose of the filter altogether.

If you’re looking for a long-term HVAC filter that you don’t have to worry about replacing that often, then perhaps a washable fabric filter is for you. However, you need to make sure that you’re thoroughly washing and drying them before putting them back in use. If you have serious respiratory problems, though, these might not be an ideal option.


Which Filter Material Is Best?

If you’re looking for a furnace filter that really does a good job of removing pollutants from the atmosphere, then a pleated fabric filter might be the best option for you. Pleated fabric filters usually have a higher MERV rating than the alternative options, and they’ll do an effective job of getting chemicals and debris out of your home’s air. This is especially important if you suffer from respiratory issues that could be triggered by airborne particles.




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