Choosing a Furnace Filter| Evanston, Darien, New Lenox

Your furnace’s air filter is your home’s first, and sometimes only, line of defense against airborne contaminants that threaten the air quality in your home. As winter approaches, we will be spending more time indoors and now is the time to start thinking about indoor air quality. If you are like most homes, you probably use cheap fiberglass disposable air filters in your furnace. You may think that you are being responsible about your furnace care, but even if you change this type of filter monthly, you could still be allowing thousands of harmful contaminants to roam freely in your breathing air. If you haven’t thought about your furnace’s filter in months or maybe even years, poor air quality is probably not your only problem.

MERV Ratings

Most filters use the MERV rating system to express their efficiency at removing particles from the air. Electrostatic air filters do not use this scale, but for any other type of filter, you will find that it is labeled with “MERV” and then a number. The higher the number the better the filter is at removing particles from the air. The fiberglass panel filters you have been using probably only have a MERV rating between 1 and 4. That’s pathetic. What you should be looking for is a filter with a rating between 5 and 8. These filters can remove particles down to 3 microns, and for most families that will be the right amount of protection.

When you choose a filter with a MERV rating between 9 and 16, the air in the home will become exceptionally clean, but these filters must be changed very frequently in order to prevent clogging of the furnace system. Dirty filters can cause system failure or at the very least, lower efficiency. Filters with this high of a MERV rating should only be used if you have someone in the home with severe allergies or a compromised immune system.

Choosing a Filter

You need to choose a new type of filter. There are tons of options out there to choose from, but the four main types of air filters that you have to choose from are:

  • Pleated
  • Media
  • Electrostatic
  • HEPA

Each type of filter has its benefits and some have more setbacks than others, but choosing the air filter that is best for your home should be based on your families individual needs. For starters, let’s cut this list in half and eliminate a couple of your options right off the bat. Pleated filters are a popular choice among homeowners because they have the right MERV ratings, but the clog easily. The filter is pleated to increase the surface area for particle collection, but within a month’s time the filter will be filthy. There are much better options out there to choose from that don’t require such frequent replacement.

The second type to eliminate off your list is HEPA filters. This grade of filter carries the highest MERV rating and beyond. They are used in hospitals and other areas where the air needs to be sanitized as much as possible. Using one in your furnace could cause damage if you do not change it monthly.  However, we do recommend using HEPA air purifiers in the home. If you have a family member who suffers from bad allergies, this type of purifier may be one that you should consider. At Four Seasons we offer Lennox Healthy Climate HEPA filtration systems. These are different from furnace filters because they are a completely separate system that is attached to the furnace. This system removes 99.97% of particles that are in the air you breathe, and has no effect on the efficiency or air flow in the furnace.

For the average homeowner, it is best if you choose either a media filter or an electrostatic filter. Media filters can be found in the MERV 5-8 range, and they last longer than pleated filters. They are made out of several layers of filter media that is efficient at capturing particles, and they have a larger surface area. This allows them to last up to 3 months without causing a restriction to air flow.

Electrostatic filters are another excellent option. They use static electricity to collect particles from the air, and they also have an excellent MERV rating. There are many different types from electric to washable, and they usually can last 2 to 3 months before they need to be changed or cleaned. They do not restrict air flow either!

Ask Your Four Seasons Serviceman!

If you are unsure which type of filter is best for your furnace, ask your Four Seasons certified technician when he is at your home performing the yearly maintenance on your furnace. All of the servicemen at Four Seasons are very knowledgeable and can find you a filter that will work perfectly for your home and your furnace.

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