Homeowner's Guide to Air Filters: Disposable vs. Permanent

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August 27, 2019

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air filtersAir filters are a critical component in HVAC efficiency, performance and reliability. The average cooling and heating system circulates over 1,600 cubic feet of air every minute. A quality filter must remove damaging particulates and contaminants effectively without obstructing system airflow and reducing efficiency. For healthy indoor air quality, lowest HVAC operating costs and long system component life, air filters must be in optimum condition.

Types of Air Filters

Two types of HVAC filters are generally available for home use:

  • Disposable filters are most common. Most HVAC system manufacturers recommend installing a new disposable filter monthly during the air conditioning season and at least every other month when the furnace is running.
  • Permanent filters incorporate a washable filter media that often lasts for up to five years.

Pros and Cons

For comparing and contrasting the two filter types, here are some important caveats:

  • While disposable filters require regular replacement, it’s a simple DIY procedure that takes only a couple of minutes. Though permanent filters don’t require replacement, filter maintenance is more labor-intensive. To maintain filtration efficiency, permanent filters need to be vacuumed to remove dust, then removed from the HVAC unit and manually washed, dried, and reinstalled.
  • Filter efficiency is rated by the MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating. A higher MERV rating means a filter is more effective at removing airborne particulates while maintaining proper system airflow. Disposable filters for home HVAC systems typically offer MERV ratings as high as 12 while permanent filters average only around MERV 4.
  • Washing permanent filters presents certain issues. The static-charged filter media makes it difficult to flush out all captured particulates and a residue often remains, impacting filtration efficiency. With disposable filters, conversely, you get a fresh, clean filter for maximum efficiency every time you install a new replacement.
  • Another concern with washable filters is making sure they are fully dry before reinstalling. Wet or damp filters form a perfect breeding ground for airborne mold spores that are often present in HVAC airflow.

For more info to make an informed choice about HVAC air filters, contact the professionals at Hartman Brothers.

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