During the wintertime in Louisville, KY, your furnace will regularly cycle. With each heating cycle, the furnace’s air filter traps some debris. After a month or two, the filter becomes clogged and requires replacement. With so many options available for furnace filters, you might wonder which one is the best. Understanding the features of furnace filters and which ones offer superior performance will help you make an informed decision about maintaining your furnace throughout the winter season.

Right Size

Your furnace’s owner’s manual explains what size of air filter it needs. The dimensions include length, width and thickness. Using the right size of air filter matters because any gaps left around the filter allow particles to travel throughout your home’s air ducts and into your rooms. If the filter is too large, it may not fit in the housing. If you can’t find the dimension requirements for air filters in your furnace owner’s manual, check the current filter. Most filters have their dimensions prominently written on at least one side of the cardboard or plastic frame.

Manufacturer’s Requirements and Warranty

Some furnace manufacturers stipulate that consumers use a specific brand, style or rating of filter. Failure to comply with these requirements could void the warranty on your furnace. The manufacturer of your furnace may have already tested different filters and determined that the one they recommend has superior performance in your particular heating system.

Flat Versus Pleated

Flat filters feature a low cost. However, they don’t have as much surface area as a pleated filter. A flat filter needs to be replaced every month. A pleated filter traps more particles, which helps improve your home’s air quality. If your home includes pets, a tobacco user or a wood-burning stove or fireplace, consider a pleated filter for the removal of more airborne pollutants. Pleated filters last for two to three months. They trap more particles without straining your furnace, making them an optimal choice compared to inexpensive flat filters.

Reusable Versus Disposable

When searching for the best furnace filter, you’ll come across both reusable and disposable options. If you choose an electrostatic filter, its metal plates require routine cleaning. Electrostatic filters offer a multi-year lifespan with proper maintenance. Washable filters make use of fabric, such as cotton, to trap particles. Most furnaces use disposable air filters.

A disposable filter has layers of fiberglass or paper stapled into a cardboard frame. The fiberglass or paper fibers change direction in each layer of material, which allows each layer to trap particles missed by the previous layer. The more layers of material, the more airborne pollutants the filter removes. Disposable filters last for two to three months. Once you see visible debris in the filter, it’s time for a replacement. For most homeowners, a disposable pleated furnace filter will be the right mix of affordability, convenience and efficiency at removing airborne pollutants while still maximizing airflow and furnace performance.

Low Versus High Efficiency Rating

Furnace filters follow the minimum efficiency reported value (MERV) rating system. MERV ratings range from 1 to 20. The higher the MERV rating, the more airborne particles the filter traps. Higher MERV ratings also indicate that the filter can trap tinier particles, such as viruses. Furnace filters have a trade-off between MERV ratings and efficiency. A higher MERV rating removes more pollutants, but it also reduces airflow. This lowers your furnace’s efficiency and may increase your heating bills.

Your owner’s manual may have a MERV rating recommendation for the best filter for your particular make and model of furnace. For most households, a MERV rating of 10 to 12 is a good choice. A filter with this rating removes pollen, pet dander, dust and oil droplets, most bacteria and some large viruses. Filters with a MERV rating of higher than 12 are typically used in hospitals and commercial facilities. A flat filter with one layer of material has a MERV rating of 2 or 3. Washable filters typically have a maximum MERV rating of 4. Disposable pleated and electrostatic furnace filters have MERV ratings of 8 to 12.

In addition to offering furnace maintenance services, we also offer air conditioner maintenance and heating and cooling repair and replacement. Our Mad Comfort Club ensures that your home’s heating and cooling works properly all year long, and it provides you with priority scheduling and additional savings on our services. For more information about choosing the best furnace filter for your heating system, contact us at Element Air LLC.

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