When shopping around for a new air filter, it is important to balance cost with utility. Picking a good and quality air cleaner is essential for your long-term health. They not only make your home comfortable to live in and more energy efficient but they also minimize indoor air pollution. Air filters protect your interiors from pollutants such as dust mites, allergens, pollens, smoke from tobacco, gases, fumes, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and pathogens. With their wide functionality, air filters serve as an important HVAC element for households. However, searching for the perfect model can be frustrating. Some variants pollute your home more by releasing high levels of ozone. Others boast airflow rates that are simply based on theories, without being subjected to any tests. Among so many options, sizes and prices available, you should be sure about your needs and specifications. You should know what to look for when getting one for your home. Therefore, to help you pick the perfect and efficient model, we have assembled this air filter buying guide so that you can make an informed choice.
First: Consider Medical Needs
The type of air filter in your home directly correlates to your indoor air quality. For the average person, you can get away with a cheap filter in the short-term (we’ll discuss the long-term later on). However, if you have any respiratory issues or other medical needs then you cannot afford to skimp out on your air filtration system. This is especially true if you have allergies, asthma, or other respiratory infections.
High-quality HEPA filters are the best air filters for allergies and crucial for individuals suffering from lung conditions or other respiratory ailments.
Know the Size of Air Filter You Need
Thicker air filters are more efficient than thinner filters, but modifying your home HVAC system to accommodate the thicker filter is something best left to a professional. The average person can get away with the standard one-inch thick filters. For most homes, there is not much reason to go beyond the standard sized filters. Only upgrade if a certified HVAC technician advises you to do so.
Know the Filter Types
There are many different kinds of air filters, each one having its own pros and cons.
Fiberglass Air Filters
This is the cheapest air filter available and definitely a reminder of the old saying “You get what you pay for.” These filters usually only cost about a dollar at most, but they filter out less than 10% of all known air pollutants. In general – avoid these.
Pleated Air Filters
These remove about 45% of known small particles and air pollutants and are still relatively cheap. More expensive than fiberglass, these make an alright budget option. They should not be your first choice and should only be selected if you are really tight on cash.
These offer the best balance between cost and efficiency. Removing about 85% of pollutants from your home, these can help create a healthy environment for you and your family. As before, medical issues may prompt you to go one step further, but for the average family, these will suffice.
These are the best filters available, usually able to trap particles and filter out 98% of known air pollutants. If you can afford these, they are worth the price. While they are not strictly necessary unless you have health issues, these types of filters are still an excellent way to maintain a clean home.
Look for ACH and CADR Ratings
Almost all pre-filtering gadgets feature two ratings on the specifications list — ACH (Air Changes per Hour) and CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate).
ACH ratings will define how efficient your air filter is. It tells you how many times the filter can replace the air within a room with clean, fresh air each hour. Ratings usually come as 4x, 5x, 6x, etc. Higher the rating, higher is the efficiency of the device. Also note: this figure indicates the maximum surface area (square footage) within which the air filter can perform optimally.
CADR specifies the cleaning power of the gadget within a particular room size. This rating is very helpful when you are comparing two different models with each other and need to decide which one you should get that will match the dimensions of your home. Again, the higher the number, the more effective the air cleaner is for your specified square footage.
Think Long Term
The filter you buy requires you to think long term. Remember that you need to replace filters on a regular basis to maintain maximum air conditioner efficiency. You want to have the right balance between cost and health. Most air filters – including HEPA – are worth the investment, but there is no shame in going a little lower if you do not have immediate health concerns. Consulting with an air conditioning installer can help you decide the best filters for your needs.
Also, note that heating and cooling systems contribute a major chunk of your utility bill. And with the help of an efficient air filter, you will be able to manage your energy consumption up to a huge extent. Additionally, if your filter gets dirty, it can restrict airflow, which shall, in turn, clog the unit and lead to an eventual breakdown. Therefore, consider these aspects as well, get a quality system in one go, and minimize long-term costs.
Remember that good indoor air quality is an essential component of good health. Many pollutants such as mold and pet dander circulate throughout your house, and even if you keep it obsessively clean, it doesn’t take much for that indoor air quality to be ruined. Having a high-quality filter helps ensure the long-term health of yourself, your family, and any guests who may stay in your house.