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Different types of air conditioner filters

Here’s a breakdown of the different types of air conditioner filters for your home. Given the increased emphasis on respiratory health over the last year, and how that ties into general air quality, most homeowners have surely heard more specific terms thrown around regarding A/C filters. Terms like “MERV ratings”, and the value of “HEPA” filters over “fiberglass” filters. But for most homeowners, these comparisons will be a new realm of information, as the concern regarding the quality of residential air filters has been fairly lax up to this point. 

As a basic primer on the subject, there are several different types of air conditioner filters on the market. Each filter still needs to be changed or cleaned regularly, every 30–90 days (depending on the filter), but some offer more unique benefits than others. Before jumping into the types of air filters, though, let’s explore the rating system used to classify filters.

MERV Ratings

Short for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, the MERV scale determines the basic effectiveness of any filter, ranking it on a scale from 1–20. Lower-rated filters tend to filter out less, but also tend to be cheaper, with higher-rated filters filtering out much smaller particles, and costing much more. The basic breakdown is as such:

  • MERV 1–4: These filters are the most common and the lowest cost filters. They filter out the most basic of substances.
  • MERV 6–8: These filters offer a greater level of filtration, and are the most common filters used in residential areas. These are where the pleated options begin to appear.
  • MERV 9–12: Going up the scale, this is the official “mid-range” filter, with high-quality materials able to filter out materials of 1 micron or larger. 
  • MERV 13–16+: The most expensive, and most dense, filters available, these filters can filter out materials of 0.3 microns. 

While it would seem most logical to always seek out the filter with the highest MERV grade, it’s important to verify that it will fit and function within a home’s HVAC system beforehand. Using a filter that doesn’t align with the A/C could make the system run inefficiently, or potentially work harder for lower air circulation, putting the whole system under greater wear and tear. 


The filters in the MERV 1–4 range are made up of basic fiberglass material. They capture roughly 15% of overall filterable material and need to be replaced more often than other, higher-rated filters as they tend to wear out faster. 

Pleated Filters

These filters have the wavy appearance of corrugated cardboard and tend to be made of polyester or cotton. Better than their basic fiberglass brethren, these filters tend to fall within the MERV 6–13 range, with cotton filters falling slightly higher on average than polyester. Pleated filters are able to stop up to about 45% of pollutants, come in the same size as fiberglass filters, and tend to need to be replaced every 1–3 months.

HEPA Filter

The highest-grade filters available, typically in the MERV scale range of 17–20, HEPA filters are capable of trapping 95% of airborne particles. While the most effective filter available, they are also the most expensive and can be impractical for some residential applications, as there are some residential HVAC systems that they simply will not fit within. 

Washable Fabric

Some varieties of filters come in a washable fabric format, which can be more convenient than replaceable filters in some aspects. For instance, these filters tend to last for a number of years rather than a number of months. Conversely, homeowners have also expressed issues with these filters not typically seen in disposable or replaceable filters, such as mold and mildew growth over time. 

Choosing the exact right filter for your home’s A/C can be a very involved choice — finding the right balance of cost vs convenience vs environmental factors is a juggling act that can be overwhelming. At the end of the day, it’s most important to weigh the needs of the residents with what filters can reasonably be used with your home’s system. 

If the best choice seems unclear, or if there is any question about which filter will match up with your home’s A/C system, reach out to the licensed experts at Duane Blanton Plumbing, Sewer, Heating, and Cooling. Knowledgeable and experienced, the technicians at Duane Blanton will be able to help guide you toward the right filter for your home and system. To get in touch, give the technicians at Duane Blanton Plumbing, Sewer, Heating, and Cooling a call today, at (815) 781-2567, or check out their online scheduling portal from the convenience of your laptop or mobile browser.  

Duane Blanton Plumbing, Sewer, Heating, and Cooling is proud to be a Bryant Factory Authorized Dealer, offering top-quality heating and cooling options to fit the specific needs of Duane Blanton customers. The quality, comfort, and efficiency of Bryant Heating & Cooling Systems’ products naturally align with Duane Blanton’s drive to provide an exceptional customer service experience. Ask a Duane Blanton Plumbing, Sewer, Heating, and Cooling expert today about the advantages of upgrading to a new Bryant Heating & Cooling system for your home!


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