Best HVAC Air Filters for Homes (2021 Reviews)

| Last Updated: July 26, 2021

HVAC Air Filters are one of the most important components of any HVAC system.

A dirty filter or a filter that needs to be replaced can cause problems.

We have compiled the basic information for what you need to know about the purposes and types of air filters, and we have checked out the available air filters. We have selected the best air filters and provide our recommendations for you.

Comparison of the Best HVAC Air Filters

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Three pack
  • 15.75" x 24.25" x 3"
  • Supreme airflow
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  • Patented self-seal technology
  • Filters out most impurities
  • Patented design
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  • Ultra fine filter
  • Two pack
  • 15.65" x 24.65" x 4.31"
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  • Nominal Filter Size 16 x 25 x 2
  • Merv 8 Performance
  • Pack of 12
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  • MERV 13 filter
  • Patented Aprilaire Self-Seal Technology
  • 10-year Clean-Coil Commitment
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Factors to Consider Before Buying an AC Filter

There are many AC filter varieties on the market, and buying one can become a tedious task if you don’t know what to search for. To preserve the environment, manufacturers have started to move on from disposable filters to washable ones. Still, even washable variety needs changing in five to ten years.

Whichever you choose, here are a few aspects to consider while buying a new AC filter.

Photo credit: servicechampions.net

Dimensions and Thickness

Before buying, ensure that you know the measurements and the thickness of the filter. Even if you don’t have the user’s manual to your appliance anymore, you can still get the suitable variety and size.

Remove the existing filter and try to find the dimensions along the edges of the product. You might also find the type and thickness along the way.

The latter should get special attention as it’s the primary measurement that will tell you how thoroughly the filter cleans the air.

Usually, the standard filters go from one inch to five. The higher the number, the more thorough its cleaning ability. At the same time, the thicker the filter, the more pressure it puts on your HVAC system or unit.

Washable vs Disposable

While the world is moving on a more environmentally friendly path in recent years, millions of users prefer disposable air filters. Plus, some air conditioners just don’t fit the more responsible washable ones.

Yes, washable filters might be more expensive upfront, but they also take longer to wear out, which means less money spent in the long run. Still, there’s one problem: if you use the electrostatic (more about this below) variety, the washable ones will lose the charge over time.

Flat Panel vs Pleated

This section is all about the structure of the material that keeps the harmful particles out. Both varieties can be washable or disposable.

Flat-panel filters are cheap and have the most basic filtration capacity, as they’re just fibers fitted on a frame.

If you’re searching for something better, consider the pleated type. Made from cotton or plastic fibers, these are denser and provide more surface to catch fine particles.

While it’s a matter of preference, keep in mind that you might have to change the pleated variety more often, as they do a more thorough job.

What’s an Electrostatic Filter?

If the filter is electrostatically charged, it can trap more particles than the ones with no static. This variety can apply to any category mentioned above.

MERV, CADR, and HEPA

All the abbreviations above refer to the filter’s ability to block dust, pet hair, and other harmful particles from re-entering your environment. They all measure the filter’s thoroughness on some scale or for a specific particle but come from different authorities and agencies.

Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) measures the strength of the filter to block the unwanted particles.

Photo credit: thehealthy.com

 It’s a scale from one to 16, where the higher the number, the better the filter’s performance.

Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) is the scale from the Federal Trade Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency. Most air filters fall between the range from 12 to 240.

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) is a title that comes from the Energy Department and is assigned to filters that remove particles of 0.3 microns more than 99.97 percent of the time.

Reviews of the Best Air Filters

We found five air filters to share with you. We found that pleated media filters are the most versatile of the filters on the market. Lennox manufactures a filter that is made of carbon and rivals some of the higher MERV rated filters that are on the market. These air filters are designed for use with HVAC systems as well as air cleaners. Some of these filters are not universal.

They are only for use with designated models of air cleaners. Be sure to know the particular specifications of the filters that you are able to use when you are purchasing replacements for your HVAC system.

Best Overall

Trion 255649 Air Bear Supreme

Trion Air Bear 255649-101 Pleated Furnace Air Filter 16x25x3 MERV 8 by Trion, 3-Pack

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Review

The Trion 255649-101 N/A Air Bear Supreme Replacement is rated as a MERV 8. This media filter is one of our favorites because it allows air to flow freely while filtering out large dust particles. This is an excellent filter to use as a universal replacement.

Runner-up

Aprilaire 410 Filter

Aprilaire - 410 A1 410 Replacement Air Filter for Whole Home Air Purifiers, Clean Air Dust Filter, MERV 11 (Pack of 1)

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Review

The Aprilaire 410 Replacement Filter is designed to only be used with the Aprilaire Model 1410, 2410, and 3410 Air Purifiers. These are high efficiency rated filters, rated at MERV 11. These are easy to install and are only replaced once per year. If you have an Aprilaire air cleaner, this product will extend the life of your HVAC system and provide filtered air for comfortable breathing.

Best for the Money

Lennox X6672

Lennox Carbon Coated X6672 Healthy Climate MERV 16 Filter (2 Pack)

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Review

The Lennox Carbon Coated X6672 Healthy Climate filter is rated as a MERV 16. This filter is of hospital-grade quality. It removes about 90 percent of the tiniest microns of germs such as viruses and bacteria. If you want your residence to be germ-free, this should be your filter of choice. This furnace filter is reliable and is one of the best that isn’t rated as a HEPA filter.

It is a versatile filter that can be used in air cleaners as well as furnaces. It is made with carbon to reduce odors. One issue is that most filters are white, and you can easily see when they need to be replaced. This filter is already dark gray, so it’s not as obvious.

Glasfloss Furnace Filter Pack

16 x 25 x 2 Merv 8 Furnace Filter (12 Pack)

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Review

This MERV 8 furnace filter pack contains a dozen filters that can be used in a multitude of HVAC systems as a universal replacement for the filters that are standard size of 16 x 25 x 2.

Although you won’t need to change them monthly, buying in a pack like this allows you to have a few on hand to change out the filters in a typical HVAC residential system. Buying in bulk is a great idea because you will have them on hand when the filter becomes clogged.

Aprilaire 213 Filter

Aprilaire - 213 A1 213 Replacement Air Filter for Whole Home Air Purifiers, Healthy Home Allergy Filter, MERV 13 (Pack of 1)

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Review

Aprilaire 213 Filter Single Pack is not a universal filter. It fits only Air Purifier Models 1210, 2210, 3210, 4200, or Space-Gard 2200. This filter is able to trap dust and mold spores. Not only does this help the air quality, it also prevents the components of the HVAC unit from becoming covered with dust.Remember to measure the length, width, and height of the filter when you are purchasing a replacement filter. These dimensions are especially important because the filter must fit flush within the space designed for it to prevent an unfiltered flow of air to the components of the HVAC system.

What Are HVAC Air Filters Used For?

Much as an oil filter is designed to protect an engine by removing contaminants, air filters are designed to protect the HVAC equipment by removing contaminants. These contaminants range in the level of harm they could do to humans or pets, but they are all highly detrimental to the HVAC equipment.

Air filters are placed within a ventilation system to block airborne particles such as mold spores, bacteria, viruses, animal dander, pollen, and dust. Keeping these things from freely flying through the air is good for a building’s occupants, but it is primarily good for the equipment. If the ducts are clogged, the air doesn’t flow freely. A clogged filter starves the unit for air. This results in a decrease in your HVAC system’s efficiency. Units that have dirty filters that need to be replaced have to work harder and don’t provide cool air in the summer or warm air in the winter.

An overworked HVAC system is an HVAC system that won’t last as long. Overworked units also hit your pocketbook with higher utility bills. If the air can’t flow through the ductwork, it backs up into the air handler and causes the AC condenser to freeze up. If you see ice on your condenser – the unit outside – and you aren’t getting cold air inside, it might be your air filter’s fault!

Important Terms to Know

When you begin to look at air filters, you will find an alphabet soup of letters that can be confusing to the novice. MERV, MPR, FPR, and HEPA are all acronyms associated with HVAC air filters. We break them down for you below.

MERV

The Minimum Efficiency Rating Value ranges from 1 to 20. Air filters are tested six times by organizations and manufacturers to determine the MERV rating. Air filters that capture large dust particles rate a MERV score of 1 to 4. The higher the rating, the smaller the particles that are captured. Filters with a MERV 8 to 12 rating are most often recommended for residential use. MERV 13 to 16 rated filters are commonly used for commercial or industrial HVAC systems.

MPR

The Micro-Particle Performance Rating is a rating system created by 3M. The rating designates the 3M filter products’ abilities to capture pollutants smaller than 1 micron.

FPR

Home Depot has a unique rating system for their air filters. The Filter Performance Rating is comparative to the MERV rating, but it is specific to brands sold at Home Depot and is solely determined by Home Depot.

HEPA

Trion 255649 Air Bear Supreme

High Efficiency Particulate Air filters catch the tiniest of particulates. These filters have a MERV rating of 17 to 20. HEPA filters are great for helping individuals for health reasons because they block allergens. These higher efficiency air filters restrict air flow and are not usually used in residential HVAC systems.

Types of Air Filters

In addition to the rating system for HVAC air filters, these filters are made with different materials and in different styles. We discuss five different types of filters below.

Flat-Panel Fiberglass Filter

Flat panel fiberglass air filters are some of the most commonly used filters in residential HVAC air returns. This type of filter typically has a MERV rating of 4. It has to be replaced approximately every 30 days of use of the HVAC system.

This is a disposable filter. If you are looking for a low maintenance filter, this is a good style for easily putting in the new one and tossing the old one in the garbage. However, if you are wanting to put in your filter and forget about it for longer than once a month, this isn’t the filter for you.

Pleated Filter

Pleated filters are the most popular type of filter. Pleated filters can be used with any type of HVAC system. The pleated filter catches the dust and particulates on the surface of the pleats rather than within the filter. It is a thinner filter because the material doesn’t allow the materials in the air past the surface and doesn’t need to be thick to catch the remaining particles. The filter’s pleats increases the air flow and causes less restriction of airflow as it collects materials. This makes the pleated filter more efficient.

Most pleated filters have a MERV rating of 8, but they range from 5 to 13. 

Some pleated filters have a MERV rating of up to 13 because they feature electrostatic characteristics, and they don’t support growth of mold or bacteria. Pleated filters are sometimes made with carbon and charcoal fibers. Carbon absorbs the odors. Cotton, polyester, and synthetic blends are also used to make pleated furnace filters. These filters are disposable.

Media Filters

Aprilaire 410 Filter

Honeywell and Aprilaire are among the manufacturers of Media filters. These filters usually have a MERV rating of 10 to 13. Some media filters are used in conjunction with the media air cleaner that is placed in the ductwork. These filters can also be used at the air return.

Media filters are bulkier than the pleated filters. These filters are different than the traditional filters.

HEPA

HEPA filters are used in commercial or industrial locations as well as in medical facilities. HEPA filters are typically made of fiberglass. HEPA filters intercept and hold onto the tiniest of particles in the air. HEPA filters must be replaced often.

Washable Reusable

Washable reusable air filters are a permanent type of air filter. Once you purchase a washable air filter, you will be able to wash it off and put it back into service periodically. This is one of the newer air filter types, and it is gaining popularity. It is a green choice to reuse an electrostatic air filter. These filters should be washed approximately every three months, unless you have indoor pets or lots of dust and allergens in the air. In that case, you’ll want to clean them more frequently. These filters should last about five years.

What Size Air Filter Do I Need For My Air Conditioner?

Fitting the new filter isn’t too hard of a job. You just need to have the correct measurements. If you have a wall, window, or portable unit, finding the exact dimensions should be straightforward. In the case of central ACs and if you don’t have the old filter at hand, you might have to sweat a bit.

Look at the Dimensions on the Label

The easiest way to match the new filter is to find the label on the old one. Turn off your air conditioner to avoid damaging the unit and hurting yourself. Remove the one you have in the appliance and search for the dimensions along the edges.

The numbers you’ll find are the nominal size (whole number version) of the filter. The actual size will be slightly (about 0.25 to 0.5 inches) smaller than the mentioned figure.

Measure the Existing Filter to Match

If, for some reason, you can’t find the dimensions on the filter, take a measuring tape and find its length, width, and thickness. The next step is to round up each measurement to the nearest whole digit.

Measure the Air Intake Slot

If you own a central AC unit that has been there for eternity or has non-standard filter measurements, we recommend that you take a measuring tape and find the dimensions of the filter slot frame. Make sure to have the actual filter about 0.25 inches smaller to fit perfectly.

Photo credit: housebeautiful.com

Price Points of AC Filters

As we already mentioned, air filters can be of different sizes and thicknesses, both of which is a factor while determining the price for the product, but the MERV rating (the thickness) is the decisive one. Plus, you should look out for the filter type (washable or disposable) and if it’s electrostatically charged. Let’s see what price ranges you can explore.

$5 – $15

This air filter category holds the most common pleated disposable filters. Retailers mainly sell these in different sizes.

Some brands offer products you can cut to fit your appliance. The next category that holds the widest variety is the electrostatic pleated ones. Funnily enough, you can also find washable filters in this lower-end tier.

$15 – $25

This price range holds higher MERV-rated filters with odor-reducing and microbe-absorbing qualities. The primary product type is the electrostatic pleated one, although you can also find more washable options.

In addition to residential AC filters, commercial ones also start to appear in this category.

$25 – $50

Most filters in this range are around 1500 microparticle performance rating (MPR), which is almost three times higher than the recommended allowance. More washable filters appear, and most of the products have higher MERV ratings (up to 12).

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Caring For and Replacing Your Filter

Air conditioning units require filter changes on a regular schedule. Each type of filter has a limited duration of usage before it needs to be cleaned or tossed out. If your filter is dirty, air can flow around the filter and deliver debris directly to the coil. This can damage the air conditioning system. Filters are located in different places along the ductwork in the air return. These can be in the ceiling, walls, or in furnaces or air conditioners.

The lifespan of each filter is dependent upon the amount of time that the HVAC system is in use and whether the building is filled with dust, pet dander or fur. If the filter is catching particles and become dirty faster, it should be replaced more frequently than the manufacturer recommends.

Air returns are typically built in standard sizes, but they are not all the same size. You must measure your filter before purchasing your replacement. Replacing a filter with a smaller size filter is not recommended because unfiltered air will flow around the filter and cause dust, allergens, and debris to collect on the coil. Also, a filter that is too large will not fit or do its job properly either.

Some HVAC systems have multiple filters of varying sizes. Be sure to note this so that you purchase and change all of the filters on the same date. Keeping the HVAC system working properly is the ultimate goal.

How to Change Your Home Air Filter

Changing a home air filter is an excellent way to purify the air circulating in your home. Doing so is not time-consuming; once you know the filter size, all you need to do is replace the old one. You can easily change the furnace filter yourself with a list of simple instructions to follow. 

1. The first step is to turn off the AC or furnace. 

2. In order to change the home air filter, you need to know where it is located on your unit. You can refer to the user’s manual for this or check the blower compartment.

3. The size of the filter is an important factor, and you should know this before purchasing a new one. Again, you can determine this by reading the user’s manual or use a measuring tape to measure the dimensions of the existing air filter. 

4. To proceed, you now need to remove the existing filter. But before you do, observe the arrow on the filter frame that indicates the direction of airflow. This is important so that you insert the new filter in the correct direction. We advise you to draw the arrow with a marker to avoid confusion.  

5. Now you can pull out the old air filter and dispose of it before any dust spreads. 

6. Carefully install the new filter, making a note of the direction on the arrow you drew. 

7. Turn on your device, and you’re now ready to use it!

Each AC or furnace has its own specifications, so you would need to check the user’s manual for further instructions. A video is also linked below to guide you visually. 

Conclusion

Air filters serve multiple purposes, but the most – advertised asset is easier breathing for asthma sufferers or allergy sufferers. This marketing information is important, but to the HVAC technician, the air filter’s function of protecting the equipment is of first and foremost importance. The restriction of airflow caused by a dirty air filter can cause frustration for the homeowner and the HVAC service tech. Proper care and maintenance of the HVAC system begins with the filter.

MERV ratings are important when selecting a filter. If the filter restricts too much airflow, your HVAC system must work harder. Choose your filter wisely for both your health needs and your HVAC system’s needs as well. A moderate MERV rating is effective, unless you prefer hospital grade sterile air. Keep your filters changed regularly, and you will be able to extend the life of your HVAC system.

$50 – $100: This is the highest tier of the air conditioner filters. Mostly washable, high-quality products are included. If your original AC had a washable filter, we recommend you find an equivalent and save on disposable ones in the long run.

People Also Ask

There may be certain ambiguities in your mind regarding good air filters and their usage, especially if this is your first time buying one. Therefore, we have researched some of the common inquiries and answered them below for your ease. 

Is a 2-Inch Filter Better Than a 1-Inch?

Not everything is black and white here. While a two-inch filter has a larger surface area and can catch more dust particles, it also restricts the airflow quicker, making the unit work much harder. This choice is a tradeoff between cleaner air and more frequent maintenance.

How Do I Know If My AC Filter is Dirty?

You need to check on your AC filter once per two or three weeks. The easiest way to know if it’s dirty is the time passed after the previous cleaning. The second step is to take a look. If dust and small hairs are visible, then you need to clean the filter.

Can You Run Your AC Without a Filter For a Day?

Nothing terrible will happen if you run your AC without a filter for a couple of hours.

Still, after six to eight hours, the air quality in your home will be significantly lower. Any longer, and you risk dust particles ruining your perfectly good air conditioner.

Prolonged use of the AC without a filter can result in a damaged compressor, frozen evaporator coils, increased energy bills, and lower air quality.

Which Way Does an AC Filter Go?

The filters have arrows that show the airflow direction. As the AC draws the air into the unit, you should always place the filters with the arrows facing the unit.

Can You Wash Air Conditioner Filters?

Most air conditioners come with washable filters. Although each AC includes a manual describing how you should treat the filter, the general rule of thumb is that you can rinse it and let it air dry before putting it back in.

Alternatively, you can use a vacuum cleaner or a brush to dust it off if it’s not too dirty.

Where Is My Air Conditioner Filter?

Depending on the model, your mini-split, window, or portable AC filter is located on the top, bottom, or side of the indoor unit. Your user manual contains more information about this issue.

Modern air conditioner manufacturers locate the filters in an accessible spot and make popping them out and back in very convenient.

How Often Should You Change Your Air Filter In Your Home?

It is recommended to change your home air filter every thirty days or so to make sure the air is clean. Some pleated filters can last as long as six months, but it is still better to replace it on a monthly basis.

Do Home Air Filters Make a Difference?

They’re actually quite crucial. They are made to prevent harmful little particles, including dust, pollen, smoke, molds, bacteria, and other such pollutants from entering your home.

If a lot of these particles accumulate for a long time, they can block the airflow, the ductwork and damage the HVAC system.

How Much is an Air Filter For House?

There are various grades of air filters that are sorted according to their MERV ratings. For this reason, they can be purchased at a range of prices, anywhere from as low as $4 to about $30 or more. HEPA filters are ranked above thirteen and are therefore more expensive.

Why Do You Need An Air Filter in Your House?

An air filter is an important component of the HVAC system since it plays a huge role in keeping the airflow clean. Air filters are designed to block out any pollutants or allergens such as bacteria, pollen, dust particles, etc. They should be replaced regularly to ensure clean air for you to breathe in.

Are Expensive Air Filters Worth it?

Air filters are ranked according to their MERV rating; the higher the rating, the finer the filter. High rated filters require almost the same energy to run compared to those that cheaper. They’re constructed with pleats, hence have a greater surface area to filter out the air. Therefore, they last quite long.

All in all, while expensive air filters last longer and filter even the smallest particles (which is good for you if you have allergies), a pocket-friendly filter will work the same.

Do Pleated Air Filters Restrict Airflow?

Even though pleated air filters offer greater surface area, they do restrict air movement, and due to this reason, the fan needs more energy to heat or cool your home, and thus its efficiency is reduced. However, other air filters can restrict airflow, as well as more and more dust, being trapped into them. Hence, they’re still a good option, depending on your needs.

What Happens if You Don’t Change the AC Filter?

Imagine you haven’t cleaned your floor for days. All the dust and other pollutants will circulate in the air alongside, and that is what happens when you leave your AC filter unchanged, too. The airflow of the HVAC system is hindered, and it can either damage the system or its efficiency goes down.

How Can You Tell if Your Air Filter Needs to Be Changed?

Your air filter will be visibly dirty, laden with dust particles that have accumulated over time. In case of a car’s air filter, you may also notice reduced horsepower, unusual engine problems and smell gasoline in your car. The fuel’s efficiency may also be compromised, and there might be smoke generated.

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My name is Bob Wells and I am a retired HVAC tech from Washington state. I am currently retired and no longer do much with HVAC, however, I feel like I have a lot of knowledge in the subject and I wanted to create a website where I could talk about what I've learned and help upcoming HVAC techs. Find more info about me and HVAC Training 101.

2 thoughts on “Best HVAC Air Filters for Homes (2021 Reviews)”

  1. An Ace employee – just yesterday- told me to buy the cheapest air filter, because the upgrades can damage my unit. I have never been told that before now. Is it true? What should I use- i was buying the most expensive because thought it was better. ?????

    • I wouldn’t say that more expensive is necessarily better or that cheapest is necessarily worse. There’s some good low-priced ones and some lousy expensive ones. I’m not sure exactly what the employee would have been talking about. As long as you were buying the right size and type for your unit, you should have been ok. Maybe the employee thought you were looking at something that didn’t match your AC. It should be in your manual or even on a label by where you replace your filter.

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