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Posted 11/15/2017

A guide to all furnace filter questions

A guide to all furnace filter questions

Winters are upon us and most homes in the United States are heated by furnaces, heat pumps or water boilers. Although all three types of HVAC systems use different methods to heat up air and maintain comfortable room temperatures for us to survive the winter, they all use some kind of filter that needs proper maintenance. The filter is an integral part of the HVAC system and comes in a variety of sizes and options.

Boilers – water is heated, using natural gas or oil, to create steam which flows through a network of pipes and is delivered to the various baseboard heaters and radiators in different parts of the house. Boilers can also be used to heat up water for warm showers and baths. Buying a new boiler can cost upwards of $2000 and installation costs on average reach the $4000 mark. Boilers can last more than 15 years and pay for themselves by helping you save on utility costs.

Furnaces – coils are heated using natural gas or electricity. Heat is transferred to different parts of the house via a network of vents and ducts. The warm air helps regulate room temperatures and provide a comfortable indoor atmosphere in winter. Furnace installations can cost on an average $3600.

Heat Pumps – use electricity to transfer heat from one area to another which makes a cool space cooler and a warm space warmer. Heat pumps have a dual functionality and can be used in all seasons. Heat pumps are meant for moderate climates and are not as effective in extreme temperatures. Installation costs of heat pumps can be approximately $4800.

MERV rating systems

MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The MERV rating system displays the efficiency of the filters used. MERV rating ranges from 1 to 16 like all rating systems when it comes to HVAC equipment. The higher the MERV rating, the better.

For optimal performance, filters with a rating from 8 to 12 should be purchased. You might want to go higher but these will be more expensive and reports suggest that these block airflow along with pollutants. Restricted airflow can cause the heating equipment to perform inefficiently and maintenance costs increase. For further assistance and questions you can always call your local HVAC experts for advice.

Filter performance and life is dependent on a variety of factors. Filters with a higher MERV rating generally last longer and are more efficient. It also depends on the homeowner and regular maintenance and cleaning of filters make a huge difference. Pet owners and people with allergies should replace clogged filters often to get the maximum out of their equipment. Filters need to be replaced more frequently in the winters when the heating is used continuously as compared to summers.

Different types of filters

There are 4 types of filters you can use for your HVAC heating equipment:

Fiberglass filters – These are disposable and the cheapest filters you can find at home depot. They have a blue tint and a spider web like appearance. They are available in many different sizes but have lower MERV rating than other filter types. Due to inferior quality, fiberglass filters need to be replaced more frequently than other filters. Fiberglass filters can stop small rocks but also restrict air supply which can damage your furnace.

Pleated filters – These are the most common type of filters that can be found. Pleated filters are made out of polyester and paper. They generally do a good job of reducing dust, pollen and other small particles and allergens from the air. These filters can be purchased for $40 per pair. Pleated filters should be cleaned on a monthly basis and replaced every quarter.

Electrostatic filters – These use electrically charged plates to trap dust and other pollutants. Electrostatic filters can capture 90% of all pollutants but are easily blocked and efficiency can drop to 60%. In order to maintain high performance, they need to be cleaned almost every day or two which is a huge hassle. Electrostatic filters are good for people who own pets and often smoke indoors.

HEPA (high efficiency particulate arrestance) filters – These are the best type of filters you could possibly choose. They trap 99% of air pollutants and perform well throughout the year. They are easy to clean and replace. HEPA filters are also available in a biodegradable version which makes them easy to recycle and are environment friendly. HEPA filters need to be replaced every two years which is way better than all the other types.

Signs that you filters need to be replaced

Here are 3 signs to look out for indicating your filters need to be replaced:

The filters are visibly covered with debris, dust and dirt. This should not be the case. Hose down the filter with a power washer or clean under the kitchen sink and they’ll be as good as new.

There is noticeably more dust around the house. Unless there was a dust storm, chances are the filters are not doing their job properly. Clean and replace the filters. If the problem still persists, call an HVAC professional service.

The furnace takes longer to heat up the room than it normally takes. The time difference might be hard to notice. Use a stop watch and thermostat to be certain.

Lessen the load

Maintaining clean filters can assist in maintaining clean HVAC central heating and cooling equipment. With cleaner air there is less accumulation of dust and debris inside the unit. Dust build ups can cause unnecessary loads and cause it to malfunction. Filters protect sensitive components and lower energy bills and expensive repair costs.

There are a lot of DIY techniques that you can use to further increase the performance of your equipment. If you are not sure what the right time to replace filters is or how to best maintain your furnace, reach out to an HVACC technician. With years of experience under their belt, they can quickly identify what is wrong with your system.