Metal Furnace Filters VS Disposable: Which is Better?

Metal Furnace Filters VS Disposable: Which is Better?

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One of the endless battles in the world of HVAC and furnace filters is whether metal filters are better when compared to disposable ones.

Metal filters are often used because they can be removed from your system and cleaned, which means they can help you save money in the long run.

But just because something is more affordable, we can not automatically assume that it’s also the better choice. Stick around to find out what are the main differences between metal and disposable furnace filters and maybe you’ll learn which one is best suited for your home.

Metal Furnace Versus Disposable Furnace Filter Comparison

Metal Furnace Filters ​​​Disposable Furnace Filters
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  • Last Longer
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Reusable
  • Saves money, short term
  • Better MERV rating
  • Efficient in trappingthe airborne particles

Metal Filters


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This is the main debate that divides filter users into two categories: the ones that prefer washable metal filters and the ones that would go for disposable ones any day.

Since metal filters can be cleaned and put back into your furnace or an HVAC system, they help you save money in the long run.

It takes about a full year for metal filters to pay for themselves and, while some people claim that they can last you a lifetime, chances are you will have to replace them every five years or so. However, since their general MERV rating is around 6, they may not be able to cover all of your needs.


Metal Mesh Filters in white background

There are huge differences between metal and disposable filters as far as maintenance is concerned. With washable kinds, things are pretty straightforward: you have to check the filter every month and see if the surface requires cleaning.

The best way to know if it does is to remove the device from the system and hold it up against a light source. If you can still see light penetrating the surface of the filter, that means it can still be used.

If the filtering device is too dirty and you have to clean it, then you can either use a hose to remove the dirt from the surface or you can put the filter in a bathtub and use your shower to clean it.

Before proceeding to actually clean the filter, you can use a vacuum to clean the encasement area. This will prevent getting dust all over the place as you remove the filter from the system.

It’s also recommended that you vacuum the surface of the filter before putting it under a stream of water. If a metal filter hasn’t been cleaned in a long time, there are chances that it will become clogged with smoke residue, grease, or pet hair.

In this case, you will have to remove the excess grime with a mixture of warm water and dish soap. Use a clean cloth to clean both sides of the filter and rinse it. Make sure you leave the filter out to dry completely before adding it back into the system.

MERV Ratings


Every type of furnace or HVAC filter has a MERV rating that varies between 1 to 20. The closer a MERV rating is to the latter figure, the more efficient it is in trapping smaller particles. However, MERV filters that are above 13 are not that useful for home use, as they are more suited for hospital and laboratory use.

Metal filters generally have very low MERV ratings, that vary between 1 and 5, at best. This means that they are not the most efficient filters for trapping really small particles.


Make no mistake, both types of filters can do a good job at protecting your HVAC or furnace system, but disposable filters provide a superior performance overall.

Because of their lower MERV ratings, metal filters can only capture about 75% of the airborne contaminants that are found inside the average household. They are not as efficient in trapping pollen or dust mites as a disposable filter with a higher MERV rating is.

Disposable Filters


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Metal units require a higher investment upfront, while disposable ones will cost you less, but you have to frequently pay to purchase new ones. If you decide to purchase disposable filters, try to look for bulk sales or packages of three or more units, which often come at a more advantageous price per product.


A man's arm and hand seen replacing disposable air filter in home central air furnace.

With disposable filters, things are even simpler. Depending on the instructions given by the manufacturers, filters will require changing every three months. However, there’s a catch. As you may already know, HEPA filters with high MERV ratings are more efficient in trapping even the finest airborne particles.

Because of this feature, they are also more prone to getting dirtier fast. Whenever you install a new set of filters (with a higher MERV rating or from another brand than the ones you’ve used up until now), check the filters every month to check their status.

MERV Ratings


If you or someone inside your house suffers from asthma or allergies, or if you own any pets or live in an area that’s frequently exposed to dust and outside contaminants, a metal filter won’t help you that much. If you’re not looking to save money, but are interested in buying the most efficient filters, disposable ones are a much better choice.

However, not all disposable filters are the same, but usually, hand around a rating of about 8.


Disposable filters with ratings between 9 and 12 are amongst the most efficient ones for home use. Because of their surface density, they are capable of capturing up to 85% of the particles typically found in the air inside a house.


In the end, the winner is whichever type of filter best suits your needs and matches the quality of the air inside your home. Metal filters are great for people who don’t want to spend the extra money that normally goes on disposable filters.

However, they are not the best choice for people who need to breathe the best quality air, for health reasons. If you own pets or suffer from any respiratory diseases and need an air filter with a much higher capacity of retaining even the smallest particles, disposable filters are your best bet.

Even if they are more efficient and eliminate the extra chore of having to wash your filters, you will always have to remember to keep spares lying around the house.

When looking to buy a good furnace filter, whether it’s disposable or metal, make sure that you read the fine print to understand more about the durability of the product. Furnace filters will be exposed to really high temperatures, so the construction of the filter needs to be able to withstand such a temperature. Every respectable filter manufacturer should have this information publicly available to its potential clients.

Whichever of these filters you choose, it’s important never to have your HVAC or furnace system running without a filter. This will cause a lot of damage to your system because of the contaminated air that’s pulled through the ducts. Only by understanding what you, your home, and your family need, will you be able to determine if metal filters are the optimal choice, or if you’re better off using disposable ones.

Metal Furnace Filters VS Disposable Which is Better

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