Electrostatic Furnace Filter VS Pleated: The Pros and Cons to Both

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Whether you own a furnace, filters are the next thing on your consumables list. In the past, these filters were first conceived to protect your home system from dust, debris or any other contaminants that could damage it. Their second role was to filter the air people breathe inside their homes. As time passed, both of these roles because equally as important, as it was discovered that a good filter can be really helpful for people who suffer from asthma or different forms of allergies. Two of the most common furnace filters are pleated and electrostatic ones.

Electrostatic Furnace Filter and Pleated Comparison

Electrostatic Pleated
Electrostatic Washable Permanent A/C Furnace Air Filter in white background
FilterBuy AFB Silver MERV 8 16x25x1 Pleated AC Furnace Air Filter in white background
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  • Washable/reusable
  • Affordable and eco-friendly
  • Poor MERV rating
  • Have to wash manually
  • Affordable
  • Available in recycled materials
  • Good MERV ratings
  • Not reusable

 

Electrostatic

Electrostic Furnace Filter

Maintenance

Electrostatic filters are also known as the washable kind and, just as the name suggests it, they can be removed from your HVAC or furnace, cleaned and then put back into place. These filters use static electricity to capture unwanted airborne contaminants. When air is sucked into the ducts, it receives a positive charge, which causes the particles to “get stuck” onto the filter’s surface. Electrostatic models are efficient in trapping really particles, but won’t do a very good job with smaller ones. Electrostatic kinds are also available in disposable versions.

Make no mistake, every electrostatic filter will require cleaning at some point. The cleaning process is fairly simple and shouldn’t actually be a reason to make steer clear from such a product (even if a lot of people avoid these filters just because of the maintenance part). All it really takes is to remove the filter from the furnace, hose it down, wash it with some mild detergent, rinse it and leave it to dry. These filters can also be washed in the bathtub and the whole process shouldn’t take more than thirty minutes.

Benefits

If you’re shopping for furnace filters, a lot of people prefer electrostatic filters because they are money-savers in the long run, but that’s not the only benefit they bring to the table:

  • They are great for people who forget to buy replaceable filters. As odd as it may sound, a frequent problem with filters is that since we don’t bump into them every day, we sometimes forget that they need to be replaced. Not replacing an HVAC filter leads to a system malfunction, so this shouldn’t be taken lightly. With electrostatic filters, you won’t have to worry about driving to the store or waiting in line to buy new filters.
  • We did mention they are cost-effective, but just how much? It only takes about one year for electrostatic filters to pay for themselves, as the initial investment required is equal to what you’d spend on replaceable filters every year.
  • If you don’t mind doing an extra house chore, washable filters aren’t that difficult to clean. You can hose them down if you have a little bit of yard space or you can wash them under shower water pressure. You won’t need any fancy cleaners, as most people use a combination of water and mild detergent.
  • They are also available in replaceable versions. Some people are skeptical about how efficient permanent electrostatic filters are, so they turn to disposable electrostatic filters instead. These will require changing every one to three months.

Disadvantages

As with every other product on the market, electrostatic filters to have a series of disadvantages that are always worth mentioning if you want to make an informed shopping decision:

  • Maintenance can be a nuisance if you don’t have the time or the energy to do it. Cleaning should be done on a monthly basis, but it really depends on how fast your filter accumulates dust and other contaminants. You’ll figure that one out as you go.
  • It is believed that electrostatic filters don’t have MERV ratings. That’s not entirely true, as these filters are generally rated 5 or 6, but this rating is not as versatile as it is with other types of filters. While a MERV rating of 6 is pretty decent, it won’t be able to handle air filtering in houses with lots of inhabitants and it won’t do a very job in filtering air from allergen triggers either.

Pleated Filters

Caucasian male removing a square pleated dirty air filter with both hands from a ceiling air duct. Guy taking out an unclean air filter from a home ceiling air vent.

Maintenance

Just like with electrostatic filters, the name is pretty suggestive here as well: these are filters with a pleated body, generally made from a combination of cotton paper or polyester. The frame of pleated filters is typically made from rigid cardboard, to provide the actual surface of the filter with the stability it needs. There is a lot of debate on whether pleated filters are actually a good choice. That’s because their surface construction can restrict airflow going in and out the vents.

Since these filters are replaceable, that means an extra cost for you. The frequency of replacing the filters depends on how contaminated the air inside your home is. The typical period recommended for filter replacement varies between one and three months.

Benefits

Some of the reasons why people prefer pleated filters over other types are:

  • They are more versatile in terms of MERV rating. They can have a rating as high as 8, which is typically the recommended one for most homes.
  • Because of their MERV ratings, they are capable of capturing allergen contaminants, providing a fresher air for people who suffer from asthma or allergies.
  • If your plan is to go eco-friendly, there are pleated filters made from recycled and green materials.

Disadvantages

These filters are not just about advantages, bringing forwards a number of reasons why people steer clear of them and would prefer another type of filter:

  • Just because a pleated filter has a high MERV rating, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s the best choice for your system. If your home system and your filter are not rating-compatible, the density of the filter’s surface can cause the system to work at a higher intensity to pull air inside its ducts, which can eventually lead to damage. It’s important to pay attention to the recommendations given by the furnace’s manufacturer in order to pick a filter with the appropriate MERV rating.
  • If you compare the price of pleated filters with that of fiberglass filters (which are the cheapest ones but also have the lowest MERV ratings), they are about three times more expensive.

Conclusion

As always, the best filter is that one’s compatible with your home and your personal needs. An electrostatic filter is a great option if the air inside your home is just mildly contaminated and the filter is not required to capture the finest types of particles. Aside from helping you save money on the long run, these filters can actually pay for themselves in a year and it would probably take about five years before they need replacing (again, this varies depending on the conditions inside your home, as there are electrostatic filters that can actually last a lifetime).

Pleated filters are better for those who don’t have to worry about cleaning any washable filters. Since they have higher MERV ratings, they are also capable of trapping finer particles, which makes them more suitable for homes of allergy suffers, for pet owners and homes with large traffic (where the resulted air contaminant is in a higher number).

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