A high efficiency furnace is often something most people don’t pay attention to as long as it’s functioning well enough to make our home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. However, they do require periodical maintenance in order to prevent malfunction. Furnace filters require cleaning/changing on a regular basis. But choosing a furnace filter that is not compatible with your unit can lead to errors and complete damage.
Furnaces work based on quite a simple mechanism. They have return ducts that suck air inside them and, by using a heat exchanger, warms it. A blower fan will then push the air into ducts that are connected to the rooms inside your house. Based on the temperature setting of your thermostat, the furnace will repeat the air heating process until the desired temperature is reached.
Best Furnace Filters Comparisons
When air is drawn into the system, it’s most likely contaminated with things like dust, dust mites, pollen, smoke and other contaminants that need to be stopped before reaching the blower fan. A MERV rating is a measure of classification that’s used to show the minimum efficiency reporting value of a furnace filter. Their ratings vary from 1 to 16. When the rating is high, this means that the filter is capable of preventing the passage of more particles compared to a lower rating filter. However, buying higher rated filters will also make it more difficult for air to pass through them as well, which means that your furnace has to work harder to compensate and draw more air inside the ducts and this can lead to malfunction.
A furnace filter with a rating between 8 and 11 should be just about enough to use for your home. Ratings from 13 to 16 are generally found in clinics and hospitals, as the air needs to be contaminant-free to prevent further infections. However, most furnace manufacturers will specify what is the maximum MERV rating allowed for the compatible filters. So, how to choose a furnace filter that works for you? Let’s find out!
Types of Filters
Disposable pleated filters are the most common choice, but they have different ratings and sizes. These filters are made from a combination of polyester and paper and are fairly decent at making sure allergens and particles found inside your home won’t make their way back into the air you breathe.
Pleated filters are disposable filters that should be replaced every 90 days or so.
Some filters are made from disposable fiberglass. They are cheaper, often resemble a spider web and are generally blue. Compared to pleated furnace filters, they have lower ratings and feel poorly constructed. Because of that, they will also require more frequent changing.
Permanent Reusable Filters
The third type of filter is the permanent reusable one, which is often called a “washable” filter. Yes, you’ve guessed it: these filters are removed from the system, cleaned and put back. They are made with plastic or aluminum frames and, upon removal, they can be vacuumed and cleaned with water. Even if they are more expensive compared to the other 2 types of filter, with the proper maintenance and periodical cleaning, they can last up to 5 years.
Washable and disposable filters are available in electrostatic versions. In short, these filters charge themselves with the passing of air, in order to make sure that the filter can trap small particles.
As far as size is concerned, furnace filters are measured by their height, length and thickness (the most common one is 1 inch). As for the height and length, you have several combinations that range between 10 by 10 inches to 30 by 30 inches. To determine the exact size of your filter, look on the frame of your current one.
Depending on the MERV rating of your filter, it can block certain contaminants that are classified in different categories according to their size. Here is a classification that could help you understand things better:
- MERV ratings that vary between 1 to 4 can generally control contaminants that are larger than 10 microns in particle size. Some examples are textile fibers, sanding dust, dust mites, and pollen. The air filters that fall into this category can be disposable (like synthetic of fiberglass ones), electrostatic or washable (such as aluminum mesh filters).
- If a filter has a MERV rating between 5 and 8, it can block between 3.0 and 10-micron particle size, meaning it can store away cement dust, spray, hair, mold spores, etc. These filters are often pleated or cartridge. Pleated filters can also be disposable, have a cardboard frame and an extended surface area. Cartridge filters are generally synthetic and feature a graded density.
- Filters with MERV ratings between 9 and 12 can block 1.0-3.0-micron particle size and are way better at stopping even fine contaminants, such as fumes, auto emissions, lead dust, humidifier dust, and so on. You can choose between box filters, that have a rigid style, or bag filters, with 6 to 12 pockets.
4. Last, but not least, you have the filters with the highest MERV rating, between 13 and 16. They will filter all types of bacteria and contaminants as fine as tobacco smoke. They come in similar styles as the 1.0 – 3.0-micron filters.
Top 5 Furnace Filter Reviews
Here’s a round up of furnace filter brands and HVAC filters for you to choose from!
AIRx HEALTH 20x25x1 MERV 13 Pleated Air Filter
This particular filter features the highest rating for residential use. It’s suitable for both furnaces and air conditioning systems. Thanks to its high rating, the filter is capable of blocking even the finest particles to make sure the air you breathe is as contaminant-free as possible. It can dramatically reduce airborne viruses, smog, irritants or bacteria that often finds its way into your home.
Even more, the filter will shield you against debris, dust, and allergens, meaning it’s incredibly recommended if you or someone living in your home suffers from a respiratory disease, such as asthma.
- Available in 10 different sizes.
- High pleat count, for better contaminant retention.
- Highest MERV rating for residential use.
- Sells in convenient packs of 6 filters.
- Complaints registered in regards to the 20 x 20 inches not running true to its size.
- Available sizes: 14 x 14 x 1, 14 x 20 x 1, 14 x 24 x 1, 14 x 25 x 1, 16 x 16 x 1, 16 x 20 x 1, 16 x 25 x 1, 18 x 20 x 1, 20 x 20 x 1, 20 x 25 x 1
- Weight: 12.3 ounces (for the 20 x 25 x 1 model)
- Rating: MERV 13
Honeywell FC100A1037 Ultra Efficiency Air Cleaning Filter
One of the top-rated furnace filters around. Available in packs that vary from one filter and up to 5 units, the Honeywell model is one of the best-selling furnace and air conditioning filters in America. Due to its deep filtration pleats, the filter is capable of retaining a lot of contaminants at a much better level than single layer filters can. You can afford to change the filter every once in 3 months, although if you have a lot of pets or a lot of traffic inside your home, it’s wiser to change it once every other month. The filter is compatible with Honeywell 20X25, 25X20, 25X22 F100 and F200 Media Air Cleaners, SpaceGard 2200.
- Very efficient at capturing contaminants.
- Ordering more filters leads to a price reduction per unit.
- List Element
- Some units arrive damaged because of bad transportation measure.
- Available sizes: 20 x 25
- Weight: 1.7 pounds (for a single filter)
- Rating: MERV 11
FilterBuy Pleated AC Furnace Air Filter
FilterBuy offers a wide variety of furnace and air conditioning filters at very affordable prices. There are high chances that FilterBuy sells a model that fits the measurement of your old filter. The filter in this review is the 20 x 22 x 1 one, which has a MERV rating of 13, the highest rating for residential use. In fact, 13 is just at the threshold between home-use and hospital-use filters, being extremely capable of capturing some of the finest particles invisible to the human eye. The filter’s frames are manufactured from beverage board, meant to withstand very high temperatures as well as high levels of humidity.
- Very good at retaining small bacteria and decrease odors.
- Come in a convenient pack of 4 filters.
- Due to their high MERV rating, you can notice a decrease in dust settled on furniture.
- There is no MERV rating label on the actual filters.
- Some filter models are not true to their size.
- Available sizes: A wide variety of 1, 2 and 4-inch filters
- Weight: 3.6 pounds (for a pack of 4 20 x 22 x 1 filters)
- Rating: MERV 13
Filtrete Micro Allergen Defense Deep Pleat AC Furnace Air Filter
Available in packs of 2 and 4 filters, these babies have a MERV rating of 11. The seller promises that these filters can retain contaminants as small as 0.3 microns. Due to the integration of electro-static technology, these filters are capable of filtering your air from smog, pet dander, pollen, mold spores, dust mites, and lint. These filters can replace some pretty big brand names, such as Lennox, Carrier, Bryant, TrionAirBear or Honeywell. 3M has developed a 3-in-1 technology that it takes pride in, which makes the filter capture unwanted air particles which simultaneously allowing filtered air to pass through.
- Can last up to 12 months before it requires change (this varies depending on whether you have a pet, using a fireplace, lighting candles often, etc.).
- Available in 3 different sizes.
- Available in packs of 2 and 4 filters.
- Flimsy packaging, can easily get damaged in transportation.
- Available sizes: 16 x 25 x 4, 20 x 20 x 2, 20 x 25 x 4
- Weight: 3.9 pounds (for the 16 x 25 x 4 model)
- Rating: MERV 11
Trophy Air Electrostatic Air Filter Replacement
This washable electrostatic filter is meant to protect your home’s air by filtering some of the bacteria that naturally travels through air. Suitable for both furnaces and HVAC systems, this model is made with 4 layers of aluminum combined with another 2 layers of electrostatic media. The manufacturer claims that this electrostatic filter does not have a MERV rating, but, as tested, the approximate rating would be 4 or 5.
- Filters can be washed and reused like Hepa models.
- Available in a wide range of sizes.
- Great for pet owners and dust control.
- Easy to fit in the slot of your old filter.
- Its MERV rating would be the equivalent of 4 or 5.
- Available sizes: 12 x 20 x 1, 12 x 24 x 1, 12 x 30 x 1, 14 x 14 x 1, 14 x 20 x 1, 14 x 24 x 1, 14 x 25 x 1, 14 x 30 x 1, 16 x 20 x 1, 16 x 24 x 1, 16 x 25 x 1, 18 x 24 x 1, 20 x 20 x 1, 20 x 24 x 1, 20 x 25 x 1, 20 x 30 x 1, 24 x 24 x 1
- Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Rating: electrostatic air filters aren’t MERV rated, but by comparison this one would be somewhere around 4 or 5.
The Bottom Line
So, what are the best filters for your furnace? The best filter for you is the one that a. fits in the slot of your old filter and b. actually manages to clean the airflow inside your home. The logical statement would be to say that the best filters are the one with the highest MERV rating. However, there were cases where people upgrade the filters to ones with a higher rating and discovered that the furnace couldn’t function properly because the density of the filter wouldn’t allow the right amount of air to pass through. When this happens, there are high chances of your furnace malfunctioning.
In general, the best filters depend on your given budget and what you’re trying to filter. Homes that don’t have that much traffic and don’t own any pets won’t exactly need the highest MERV rating. There are also other important things to have in mind. Does anyone who lives inside your home suffer from allergies or any respiratory diseases? Do you have a considerable number of flowers?
Is there an air conditioning unit that’s constantly running inside your home? Do you or anyone else living inside your home smoke? These activities and situations are contaminant-generators. From smoke to pollen, a good filter can remove them all, but if they are not present inside your home, why bothering getting a product to filter them? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
As a general note, who makes filters will often sell their products with MERV 2 AC fiberglass filters, as the furnace really needs protection from large particles, and not the very small ones. Those are more for your health and peace of mind. If you really want to achieve a good balance between your level of breathing comfort and what kind your furnace needs to function for a very long time, a filter with a MERV rating of 8 should be more than enough.
Last update on 2023-06-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API