Air conditioning is essential for comfort in the modern home. Anyone with an AC system knows that these systems require filters to operate correctly. While the market offers many kinds of air filters, most homeowners do not understand how to choose a good filter. If you know what to look for when you shop for air filters, it is much easier to select the correct one for your AC system.
Kinds Of Air Filters
At the typical hardware store, you are faced with many different types of filters of various prices and qualities. Residential air conditioning systems use mechanical air filters. These filters work by trapping dust, debris and particulate materials on their synthetic fibers.
Air conditioning filters are rated using the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The MERV scale ranges from 1 to 16, and superior filters have the highest rating. The MERV system is based on the porosity of the filter when trapping particles. They range in size from 0.3 to 10 microns.
Types Of Residential Air Filters:
Fiberglass: These filters use a thin, flat panel to trap particulate matter from the air. While they protect the HVAC system itself, they are unable to remove the very small, yet harmful contaminants that may affect your health. These filters are cheap and usually disposable and carry a 1 to 4 MERV rating.
Pleated: Made from paper or polyester, these filters offer a MERV rating of 5 to 8. They cost more than fiberglass filters, but also provide better filtration. They are able to catch smaller particles that include such health hazards as pet dander, lint, mold spores, dust and pollen. Higher quality, and more expensive, pleated filters have a MERV rating between 9 and 13. These filters offer the ability to capture more particles from the air while providing a better airflow. They include more pleats per inch, which increases their efficiency, and are able to filter up to 45% of the particulate matter that is floating in the air of the home.
High Efficiency: These filters offer a MERV rating from 14 to 16. They are often confused with true HEPA filters because they look very similar. High efficiency filters have the ability to remove 85% of the pollutants from the air. However, they are not ideal for use in residential air conditioning systems, even though they capture very small particles of dust, mold and pollen.
Air Filter Efficiency And Indoor Air Quality
The filter rating is a key factor in determining the quality of the air inside a home. An effective air filter provides the primary protection for the HVAC system and residents of the home against the pollutants that float in the air. The efficiency of the filter describes its ability to purify the indoor air by trapping the airborne particles by size.
Filters are tested to determine their efficiency by finding their performance using 3 size ranges (3-10 microns, 1-3 microns and 0.3 to 1 micron). The efficiency of the filter determines the MERV rating. The most efficient filters have the highest MERV rating, 16. One recent study suggests that a filter with a minimum MERV rating of 9 can remove mold spores, automobile emissions and other small pollutants that might affect a home occupant health while allowing the HVAC system to operate efficiently.
Regular Replacement Of Air Filters Is Necessary
While most residents understand that it is important to replace the air filters in their HVAC system regularly, many tend to ignore or put off the task. Understanding the effect of a dirty filter on the air conditioning system helps them understand why regular replacement is essential. Clogged air filters affect HVAC systems in the following ways:
Energy Consumption: A filter that is clogged by debris increase the energy the system consumes. The clog affects the rate at which air enters the system. This causes the fan motor to work harder to force the air through the clog. The system requires more energy to cool the home and utility bills increase.
Overheating: Fan motors that struggle to move additional air are under more stress and could overheat or burn out. The overheating could eventually lead to system failure.
Heat Exchanger Damage: The clogged filter causes excess heat to accumulate in the heat exchanger, which can lead to cracks. Cracked heat exchangers increase the risk of fire and can require you to replace the whole system. The cracks can also allow carbon monoxide to seep into the home.
To increase efficiency, change air filters a minimum of once per month. This is especially important during the hottest months of the year. This is when systems are operating at maximum capacity. This enhances better system efficiency. Many thermostats have a function that reminds you when it is time to change a filer, but if yours does not simply use the reminder function on your cell phone.
When Is It time To Upgrade Your AC System?
High Efficiency Air Conditioning Air Filters
While high efficiency air filters are more expensive, they offer several beneficial features. They reduce the energy consumption of the system. You do not need to replace them as often as the cheaper filters. While you might be on a limited budget when shopping, remember high quality filters save money in the end.
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