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Furnace Filters: Choosing the Best Filter for Your Home

What type of furnace filter to choose

Your furnace is one of the most important appliances in your home. This is especially true in Edmonton, where the average winter temperature falls well below zero. Therefore, it’s important to keep your furnace in top working condition. To ensure your home is safe and comfortable, and that your furnace is running efficiently and will last as long as possible, you’ll need to carefully consider what type of furnace filter to use and ensure that you properly care for it.

When it comes to furnace filters, there are several types to choose from. This includes a new smart furnace filter which provides a technological advantage. But, how do you know what kind of furnace filter is best for your home? Is a smart furnace filter really worth it? 

If you’re looking for some insight into furnace filters, we’ll provide answers to the following questions:

What does a furnace filter do?
How do I choose a furnace filter?
What is MERV rating?
What kind of furnace filter should I use?
Are smart air filters worth it?
How often should you change your furnace filter?

The Purpose of a Furnace Filter

Although most people believe that a furnace filter is meant to clean the air coming into their home, this is not its main purpose. While the filter does inadvertently improve the quality of the air inside your home by removing impurities, the main purpose of a furnace filter is to protect the furnace itself. The filter traps debris coming in through the return duct and protects the blower fan. This includes dust, pet hair and dander, as well as other allergens. A dirty, clogged filter is dangerous to the functionality of your furnace and results in more polluted air circulating through your home. Therefore, a regular furnace tune up is important to protect your furnace and extend its lifetime. 

Choosing a Furnace Filter

When choosing a filter, it’s important for homeowners to consider filter size and thickness, availability, whether they prefer the filter to be disposable or washable, the climate that they’re in and the price of replacement filters. 

  • Size and thickness – homeowners should keep in mind that their furnace will require a particular size filter. As well, not all furnaces will be able to use filters of a certain thickness. It’s also important to note that although a thicker filter will trap smaller particles, it will also decrease airflow. Slower airflow results in the unit having to work harder and therefore use more energy. This can reduce efficiency and lifespan, as well as increases your energy bill.
  • Climate – depending on the environment you live in, you may need a more efficient filter. In wet climates, for example, a filter with a high MERV rating will keep mould particles from coming inside your home. 

In addition to these factors, you’ll also have to consider your furnace’s specifications and what will work best with your particular brand and model. Above all, one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a furnace filter is the filter’s MERV rating.

MERV Rating

A furnace filter’s MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating signifies its efficiency. The higher the MERV rating, the better the filter will be at trapping small particles in the air. This efficiency rating ranges from 1 to 20, with 1 being the least efficient and 20 being the most effective. However, due to the high density of the filter, a higher MERV rating will also reduce airflow. This can result in increased energy costs and decreased lifetime, as the furnace will be working harder to pump air through the filter. Homeowners should check their systems specifications to determine the highest-rated MERV filter that their furnace can use.

Types of Furnace Filters

There are several types of furnace filters to choose from, each with its own positives and negatives.

Disposable Pleated

Disposable pleated furnace filters are common in residential households. These filters are made from paper and polyester, which helps them to effectively remove dust particles and allergens from the air. Pleated filters are more efficient and will last longer than fibreglass filters, as polyester is much denser than fibreglass. The MERV rating of a disposable pleated furnace filter will range from 7 to 9. Therefore, for people with allergies and respiratory issues, pleated filters are beneficial and may be the preferred type. 

Various sizes and ratings, in a range of price points, are available, providing a suitable option for any household. Pleated filters can last up to three months however, they should be checked regularly for blockages. 

Disposable Fibreglass

Disposable fibreglass filters are the cheapest option. While they will provide maximum airflow, they will not trap smaller airborne allergens and particles. Larger dust and debris will be trapped by the spun fibreglass, but the filter will not be nearly as effective as a pleated polyester filter. The MERV rating of a disposable fibreglass filter will be between 1 and 4. For homes that do not have people with allergies or asthma, a disposable fibreglass filter may be sufficient. 

Disposable fibreglass filters also come in various sizes and are available at a low price point. Fibreglass filters should be checked for blockages and replaced more frequently than pleated filters. Sometimes this can be as often as every couple of weeks.

Electrostatic Filters

Electrostatic filters carry a self-produced electronic charge that efficiently attracts dust particles and prevents them from spreading through the air. These filters are washable and reusable. Although more expensive than disposable filters, reusable electrostatic filters offer an efficient solution, as they can be vacuumed and rinsed with water and then reused. Definitely one of the more green options, washable filters can last up to five years if they are maintained and cleaned regularly (at least every 90 days). Washable electrostatic filters typically have a MERV rating between 4 to 10. For households with pets, smokers and people with allergies, electrostatic filters are a great option. However, not all furnaces allow these types of filters to be used safely. Therefore, it is important that you check your furnace manual, or with your local Edmonton heating services provider, to ensure you can safely use an electrostatic filter. 

Washable filters are offered in a range of sizes and ratings. 

HEPA Filters

HEPA filters, or High-Efficiency Particulate Air, provide excellent air filtration. However, due to their density, which allows them to trap even the smallest particles, they restrict airflow. This can greatly increase your energy use and therefore your monthly energy bill. The MERV rating of a HEPA filter can range from 17 to 20, making them one of the highest-rated and most effective solutions. However, with such a high MERV rating, dense HEPA filters are more suitable for commercial applications, like hospitals and government buildings, where the HVAC units are strong enough to bring air through the filter.

HEPA filters are not always readily available in sizes appropriate for standard furnaces. Pleated filters are most comparable in terms of efficiency and are more suitable for home use than HEPA filters. 

Smart Filters

Smart filters are the newest and most advanced option on the market. They use exclusive 3M technology and have the highest standards in air filtration. With the use of a companion app, these WiFi filters can send reminders to your phone about when you should replace your filter, where to buy a replacement, the life stage of your filter based on time, airflow, and usage, information about outdoor air quality, tips for improving your indoor air quality, and information about filter types and what size filter your system requires. The app allows you to input your geographic location, allergies, respiratory conditions, pets, etc., in order to provide the most personalized information possible. 

Are Smart Filters Worth It?

While a smart furnace filter is not ideal, or necessary, for everyone, it does provide a convenience that is hard to beat. For those who are not particularly keen on keeping track of their furnace filter’s life, and who often forget to replace their filter, this can be a good option. If you have pets, smoke indoors, or have a lot of dust and debris outside your home, you may need to change your filter more often. Based on the personalized information you enter into the app, your smart furnace filter will let you know when it needs to be changed. In addition to notifying you when your filter should be replaced, the app will also allow you to order a new filter and to easily pair the new filter’s Bluetooth sensor with the app. 

A smart furnace filter is a great addition to any home, particularly smart homes, and will help to make your life easier and more convenient. However, if you are diligent in keeping tabs on your furnace filter and changing it often, then the price for a smart furnace filter may deter you and the technology may not be worth it.

When to Change Your Furnace Filter

A disposable furnace filter should be replaced every three months. However, depending on the filter, it may need to be replaced every few weeks. In addition, depending on the air inside and outside your home, you may need to replace your filter more frequently. Check the manufacturer’s recommendation to see how often your filter should be replaced.

Changing your filter regularly will ensure that your furnace is functioning properly. It will also guarantee your indoor air quality is the best it can be and keep your energy bill low. In addition, regular maintenance will ensure that your filter doesn’t become clogged and decrease the life of your furnace.

If you’re unsure about what type of furnace filter is best for you or how and when you should change your filter, contact your local furnace installation company. They can help you determine what is best for your household.