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4 Types of Filters for Your AC Unit to keep it running smooth all summer

Air conditioning repairs can often be avoided by regularly replacing air filters in your home.

All HVAC air filters serve the same purpose – they remove airborne contaminants from the air. Many of these contaminants such as dust, pollen, pet dander, mold spores, bacteria and tobacco smoke are in our homes and impact the quality of the air you breathe. Not only does removing these particles benefit the residents of your home, it also keeps your air conditioning unit functioning correctly and efficiently–which is essential on hot Fleming Island summer days. 

Air filters prevent debris from clogging your air ducts and damaging your equipment. Clogged or dirty filters keep air from entering the unit, put unnecessary stress on your unit, and lead to costly air conditioning repairs.  

There are many things to consider when purchasing an air filter. Before we discuss the types of filters, let’s explore MERV ratings and what they mean for your AC unit.

What is a MERV rating?

The Minimum Efficiency Rating Value, or MERV, was designed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers. It rates how effectively an AC air filter removes particles and contaminants from the air. 

The ratings range from 1 to 20; the higher the rating, the smaller the particles captured by the air filter. A MERV rating of 1-4 captures only large dust particles. Ratings of 7-12 are most often recommended for residential use, while MERV 13-17 are commonly used for industrial or commercial HVAC systems.

With MERV ratings, higher is not always better. Higher MERV ratings indicate smaller pores in the air filters, which create more resistance for the air as it passes through the filter. Installing an air filter with too high of a MERV rating can make your system work too hard, reducing the unit’s efficiency and increasing wear and tear.

What are the most common types of AC air filters?

There are many things to consider when choosing AC air filters. Here are the four most common types of filters and their benefits.

1. Flat-panel fiberglass filters

These disposable filters are some of the most commonly used filters in residential air conditioning systems on Fleming Island, and are made of fiberglass fibers stretched over a flat framework. They typically have a MERV rating of 4, and should be replaced about every 30 days. Flat-panel filters are the least expensive option for residential AC units.

2. Pleated filters

Pleated AC air filters are aptly named, as they are made with pleats to provide more surface area for filtration. They are typically made from cotton or synthetic fibers, or occasionally from carbon or charcoal for their odor-absorbing properties. Like flat-panel filters, pleated air filters are also disposable but are more expensive. Pleated filters have a MERV rating of 5-14, and should be replaced every 90 days. 

3. Washable filters

Reusable washable air filters are often called electrostatic filters, as they use static electricity to give particles a positive charge when they enter the filter. While they are becoming more popular due to their eco-friendly nature, washable filters are more high maintenance than their disposable counterparts.

These filters must be hosed down or washed every 90 days and allowed to dry completely to prevent mold and mildew growth, and will last approximately 5 years if properly cared for. They typically have a MERV rating of 1-4, but this rating can decrease over the life of the filter due to repeated washings. 

4. HEPA filters

High Efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA, filters catch the tiniest of allergen particles. They are primarily used in commercial or industrial locations, as well as medical facilities and surgical centers. While HEPA filters can be used in households of allergy sufferers, most residential AC systems are not equipped to handle a HEPA filter. These filters have a MERV rating of 17-20. 

More Questions About Air Filters and Air Conditioning Repair?

If you have questions about choosing the best AC filter for your unit, our HVAC professionals at DDI Southeast would be happy to offer guidance. Our technicians check and change air filters as part of our AC preventive maintenance visits, and can recommend an air conditioning filter that best fits your home.

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