Choosing an AC filter is like shopping for a pair of running shoes – you need to find the balance between the right fit, optimal performance, and a good price. This can be quite a challenge, with the variety of filters on the market today. How will you know when the shoe fits?
The first step to successful shopping in the world of air conditioning filters is to be familiar with the selection of filters available. Here is a list of the major types:
- Standard Panel – This type of filter is made out of fiberglass, and generally has a cardboard frame. These filters are not very effective, filtering out only about 10% of airborne particles. But cheap, they are. A standard one of these puppies costs $1-$3. However, they must be replaced once per month. Although it may be tempting to try and clean these filters to extend their lifespan, cleaning will only remove the adhesive coating used to capture particles, thereby further reducing their efficiency. Some experts even suggest that fiberglass filters are not suited to air conditioners at all, but should rather be used for furnaces.
- Pleated (Extended-Surface) – Named for their undulating surface, which helps improves air filtration, pleated air filters are about 35-40% effective at capturing unwanted particles out of the air. The general price range for standard pleated filters is $3-$16. Pleated filters are disposable, with an approximate lifespan of 3 months.
- Aluminum Mesh – These are permanently-installed, antiquated filters which provide almost no filtration for even large particles. They are very cheap, as they never need to be replaced, but they do need to be cleaned periodically.
- Electrostatic – Using a static-electric charge to attract particles like dust, dirt, mold, mildew, or even odors, electrostatic filters are considered highly effective. The disposable versions of this filter typically last 3-6 months, while the reusable types can last up to 5 years, if cleaned regularly and thoroughly. Prices for these filters lie in the range of $9-$66.
- HEPA – These filters are 99% effective at removing allergens, bacteria, dust, dirt, odor from the air. They can even wash your car, pay your bills, and pick your kids up from school (well not really, but nobody can blame you for wishful thinking). Regular residential and commercial air conditioning systems and ductwork will not support HEPA filters, but you can purchase a stand-alone air purifier with a HEPA filter built-in. Which brings us to our final entry to our list:
- Air Purifiers – Also known as electronic air cleaners, this type of air filtration system comes in two varieties – stand-alone units, and units that need to be built right into your ductwork. Air Purifiers are very effective at their job, but they are also costly. A decent built-in system can set you back around $800, plus the cost of installation. Stand-alone models, however, can be found at your local home improvement store for anywhere between $50 for a simple, tabletop purifier, and upwards of $900 for a heavy-duty system. An air purifier can be a good investment you or someone in your family suffer from acute allergy symptoms.
Here are a couple of tips to ensure that you choose the right air conditioning filter for your home:
- Always choose the right size. The best way to determine the filter size is to look at the filter you have now. Or, consult the owner’s manual of your air conditioning system. A filter should always fit snugly, so that air does not pass around it (which would kind of defeat the purpose of having one).
- Choose Your Filter Based on the Season or on Allergies – If it is pollen season and you have a house full of allergy-sufferers, choose your filter accordingly. Go for one with a higher efficiency rating for those times of the year when it is really necessary, and then switch back to a cheaper filter once the allergens die down.
- Choose the right thickness – Filters vary in thickness from 1”-4”. Thicker is not always better, as a thick filter can restrict air movement and put more strain on your system. Consult your air conditioner’s owner’s manual for the optimal thickness.
Armed with an understanding of the options available, you can purchase an air conditioner filter with confidence and finesse. One final tip – whatever filter you choose, always follow the recommended cleaning and/or replacement instructions for your particular filter. This will greatly improve the performance and efficiency of your overall air conditioning system and promote cleaner air.
For further assistance or details on air conditioning filters, contact your Kobie Complete service technician. We offer you our expert air conditioning, heating and filter service in.