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How Do I Choose an HVAC Filter?

choosing HVAC filter sullivan

Indoor air quality is a hot topic these days, for obvious reasons – but the truth is that air quality should always be top of mind if you want to live as healthy as possible in your Sullivan County home, especially during spring allergy season.

If you heat and/or cool your home with a forced air system (one with vents rather than baseboards or radiators), one of your most important tasks is to regularly check and change its filters. A clean filter will do a better job blocking the microorganisms, dander, and other contaminants that fly around inside your home than a clogged one will. Without having to ward off those irritants, your immune system will have more resources left to fight bigger battles.

As a side bonus, a clean air filter will also lower energy bills and contribute to a longer lifespan for your equipment.

What are the different types of air filters?

Air filters come in a number of types and materials, each with different capabilities and price points.

  • Flat-panel: Typically the cheapest type of air filter, traditional disposable flat-panel models have fibers stretched over a framework. They’re disposable and easy to install, but they are also the most porous type of filter.
  • Pleated: Disposable pleated filters use dense screens of cotton or plastic fibers to remove particles from the air. Pleats provide more surface area for filtration and allow the filter to catch more debris. They are typically more expensive than flat-panel filters.
  • Electrostatic: Some air filters are electrostatically charged to trap more (and smaller) particles such as pollen, smoke or bacteria. They can be flat or pleated, and they can be disposable or washable.
  • Washable: Washable or reusable filters come in both ­flat-panel and pleated options, and they can be hosed down with water or vacuumed to remove particle buildup. Washable filters usually have a life span of two to four years, depending on use.
  • HEPA filters: The term “HEPA” (High-efficiency particulate air) is assigned to any filter that consistently removes at least 99.97 percent of particles in the air that are 0.3 microns or larger. Though they’re most commonly used in hospitals, laboratories, and other settings that require ­extremely clean air, they can be used in households where people suffer from allergies or have a compromised immune system. Just keep in mind that not all HVAC systems are ­designed to handle the super-dense HEPA filters. Consult your owner’s manual to learn more.


When it comes time to buy your replacement filter, you’ll also encounter a sea of acronyms – specifically MERV, MPR, FPR. Each term describes a system that uses numbers to describe the tightness of the filter weave, with higher numbers indicating finer filtration. The only difference among the three systems is who manufactured them.

  • MERV, or Minimum efficiency reporting value, is a measure developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); MERV ratings range from 1-20.
  • MPR, or Micro-Particle Performance Rating, pertains only to products developed by the 3M company; typical MPR ratings range from 300 to 2200.
  • FPR, or Filter Performance Rating, is a filter rating system developed by Home Depot for the brands sold through its stores, including Honeywell; it uses a 1-10 rating scale.

Converting MERV, MPR and FPR values

Here’s a conversion table of MERV, MPR and FPR ratings for common residential usage (higher-valued filters are often used in hospitals and operating rooms, but are not necessary for home use):

MERV ratingMPR ratingFPR ratingRemoves
6300N/ALint, dust, pollen
86005Dust mites, mold spores
111000-12007Pet dander, smoke, smog
131500-190010Bacteria, virus carriers

Need furnace service in Sullivan County? Trust the pros at Black Bear. Contact us today to schedule a visit from our heating experts.

Please note: At Black Bear, your safety and comfort are always our priority. Please see our Covid-19 Service Update Page to learn more about how we are working to keep our your family and our crews safe and your home cooling and heating systems working through this challenging time.