Many people pay little if any attention to their furnaces. As long as it keeps them warm during the winter and cold in the summer, it will not even be noticed. However, to be able to enjoy its services and prevent possible malfunctioning, it is necessary to clean or change the furnace's filter every once in a while.
While it sounds simple and straightforward, choosing the right furnace filter can prove to be a challenge given the sheer number of filters on the market. But with everything that is available in abundance, there is bound to be a good number of low-quality products mixed up with the good. This means that it is vital to know how to tell apart a good furnace filter from a bad one. Furthermore, a lot could depend on the filter used in a furnace.
The best furnace filter is ideally one that captures 100% dust, virus, and other airborne particles while not preventing airflow. Unfortunately, such a filter is impossible to make. Therefore, the best air filter is usually considered depending on two major factors. These are the filter type and effectiveness rating.
There are three major filter types available on the market, and they differ in efficiency and price. They are mechanical filters, electrical filters, and HEPA/Ultraviolet filters.
Mechanical filters are the cheapest and least effective filters available. They remove airborne pollutants by capturing them on a filter medium (Team). Mechanical filters are available in two main forms: flat disposable filters and pleated filters. Disposable filters are made from spun fiberglass filters that are designed to protect furnaces from large dust particles. They are the cheapest, but least effective when it comes to preventing microscopic particles from entering the home.
Pleated filters, on the other hand, are made of cotton paper or polyester. They are folded so as to provide 3-4 times more filtering surface area and are, therefore, more effective at cleaning the air when compared to flat filters. They are also capable of capturing smaller airborne particles without preventing airflow (Team).
Electrical filters use a different approach to clean the air. They use an electrical field to trap charged particles meaning that they can capture a higher percentage of airborne pollutants. As air passes through the filter, the particles are charged by the high voltage field and are then attracted to negatively charged plates like a magnet.
High-efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filers/ultraviolet filters, can be said to be the best air filters on the market, but are also the most expensive. They can remove up to 99.97% of particles in the air. They work on an air exchange principle where the air is pulled from the room, cleaned, and released into the room (Team).
The filter rating gives a measure of how effective a particular furnace filter is at capturing airborne particles. Different filter types usually have different rating systems. The effectiveness of mechanical furnace filters is measured in minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) ratings that range from 1 for the least effective to 16 for the most effective furnace filter (McKechnie).
Flat disposable filters usually have a MERV rating of 1-4 and are the least effective filters available. Pleated filters, on the other hand, are more effective and have MERV ratings of 5-13 (Landers). Electric air filters do not use MERV rating, and the effectiveness of HEPA filters is determined by calculating the count of air exchanges the filter does in an hour in a given area.
Determining the best furnace filter is, therefore, a matter of choice and preference. If cost is not an issue, then the best furnace filter would be a HEPA filter. They are by far the most effective. However, research shows that pleated filters with a MERV rating of between 8 and 13 give the best balance between effectiveness and cost.
Landers, J. B. "What's The Best Air Filter For Indoor Air Quality?". Angie's List. N.p., 2015. Web. 17 Jan. 2016.
McKechnie, Brian. "What You Need To Know About Furnace Filters". Global News. N.p., 2014. Web. 17 Jan. 2016.
Team, CleanAlert. "How To Choose The Best Furnace Air Filter". Cleanalert. N.p., 2014. Web. 17 Jan. 2016.
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