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Your air filter is a vital HVAC component that traps various airborne debris particles so they don’t infiltrate the system and damage sensitive components. Given the filter’s crucial role, it’s important to use the most effective type for your particular HVAC system and always ensure that it’s clean.

Unless your system has been modified to take an electrostatic filter, you probably use disposable mechanical filters. If you’re curious about washable air filters and are considering switching, here’s how they compare to disposables.

Filtering Efficiency

Disposable and washable mechanical filters are both rated with a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which describes their filtering efficiency. The filters most commonly used are:

  • Flat-panel fiberglass disposable filters that have MERV ratings from 1–4 and are able to capture particles 10 microns or larger, such as pollen, lint and dust mites.
  • Washable HVAC air filters typically that have MERV ratings of 1–4 as well, so they’re only effective at trapping larger particles.
  • Pleated media disposable filters offer better MERV ratings of 5–13, which can catch small particles down to 1 micron in size, such as pet dander, mold spores and dust mite droppings.
Required Maintenance

Washable filters are reusable, but they need to be cleaned on a monthly basis. If the filter is reused while it’s still damp after being cleaned, the moisture can allow mold and bacteria to grow inside the HVAC system. In contrast, disposable filters don’t need cleaning; they’re simply removed and replaced with a clean filter.

Filter Performance

Even if they’re cleaned regularly as recommended, washable filters can become clogged with debris over time. These particles trapped in the filter can inhibit proper airflow through the HVAC system and gradually erode the equipment’s performance, efficiency and reliability.

Filter Cost

Washable filters are meant to last for a few years, but they can also cost a lot more than decent-quality disposable filters that offer higher MERV ratings and more efficient filtering.

If you’re considering switching to washable air filters and need expert advice, contact the Martin, Palm Beach and Indian River County home comfort pros at NisAir Air Conditioning and Heating.