Choosing The Right Air Filter For Your Birmingham Home

February 06, 2015

Trying to select the right air filter for your Birmingham home can be a daunting experience. What’s the best one? Should you just get the cheapest? These are just some of the questions that make the selection mind-boggling. Let Norrell Service Experts attempt to resolve your home air filter questions and allow you to continue enjoying the comfort of your home without concern.

Here’s a tried and true way to determine how efficient your current filter is (NOTE: Do this outdoors or with something below the filter so you don’t end up with a mess): Set the filter horizontally, then taking everyday table salt, pour the salt through the filter then see how much comes out the other side. If some or all the salt falls through the filter, then you can imagine that the filter will let dust particles of similar size pass through. You should probably upgrade your filter to something more efficient.

There are 3 primary considerations when choosing a household air filter; Size, Material and MERV rating.

1) Filter Size

Unless you have the proper size home air filter, you will never enjoy the full effectiveness your system and filter can provide. Simply look at the label of your existing filter to see the dimensions, or just measure it yourself. Most home air filters are 1” thick, but there are a numerous standard width and height dimensions, and some systems have thicker filters.

2) Material & MERV Rating

The efficiencies of filters are rated on a scale of 16, known as MERV ratings. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This number tells the user, under the least efficient conditions, how well the filter is designed to contain contaminants.

To explain MERV ratings more impactfully, these are some common MERV ratings and how they correspond to efficiencies. This is only a guide, so don’t forget to read the filter manufacturers’ information when buying specific filters.

Rating Average Filtration Efficiency

MERV 1-4 60-80%
Fiberglass, Disposable Panel, Washable metal/synthetic, self-charging (Passive)

MERV 5-8 80-95%
Pleated, Media panel, Cube

MERV 9-12 >95%
Extended pleated

MERV 13-16 >98%
Electronic

Be Careful About High MERV Ratings

While a higher MERV number may ensure better filtration efficiency, it is extremely important to understand that too high a MERV filter may also require more to operate your furnace and AC system. The higher the MERV, the less the air may flow through the system, and the harder the system may need to work. Your aim is to get the right balance between air flow, air filtration level and energy efficiency.

Consider it this way, the most efficient ‘filter’ would actually be a piece of plywood that prevents ALL contaminants and all the air from entering your Birmingham home. That's definitely the “best” air filtration
, but would also be the least comfortable way to go.

Your best bet for most systems would be a MERV 6-8. A higher MERV filter should be used subject to the advice of your Norrell Service Experts technician to verify your system has the capability of moving the suitable volume of air through higher efficiency filters. You probably do not want to sacrifice energy-efficiency for filter efficiency; you want a balance of the two. However, if your family deals with allergies or respiratory problems and the situation necessitates a high MERV rated air filter, consider a
whole-home air filtration solution that will meet your energy and filter efficiency needs.

Filtration has changed significantly over the past few years. Originally, home air filters were used in the furnace or air handler only to safeguard the comfort equipment itself. Today it’s a whole new ballgame. Birmingham area homeowners expect their air filter to save children from a whole host of harmful pollutants, dust mites, and even prevent the need for dusting. Dare to dream!