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Best Air Filters for Allergies, Pets, and More

HVAC Logo IconBy HVAC.comAugust 1, 2023
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Just as your vehicle needs regular oil changes, your HVAC system needs periodic TLC as well to ensure it runs properly and efficiently. That includes changing the HVAC air filter on a regular basis.

Air filters should generally be replaced or cleaned about every three months, although factors such as the type of filter, its MERV rating, and the conditions inside your home affect the regularity of this task.

Choosing an air filter can be a bit daunting. In this blog, we’ll help you select the best type of air filter to meet the needs of your family.

Best Air Filters

For pets

pet air filters

Filtrete Micro Allergen Defense
  • MERV 11
  • Pleated and elctrostatic
For allergies

allergy air filters

AirX Allergen
  • MERV 11
  • Affordable
For smokers

smoker air filters

Filtrete Odor Reduction
  • Extra carbon layer
  • Electrostatic
For pollution

pollution air filters

Filtrete Ultrafine Particle Reduction
  • MERV 14
  • Electrostatic
For wildfire smoke

wildfire smoke air filters

Filterbuy Optimal Defense
  • Recyclable
  • Pleated and electrostatic
For value

value air filters

Simply by MervFilters
  • Sturdy frame
  • Fiberglass filter

How to Choose an Air Filter

Size

First, you’ll need to know which size to buy. There are several standard sizes for air filters. If your existing filter isn’t labeled, our informative guide will help you determine the size you need. 

MERV Rating

MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value. It measures an air filter’s effectiveness at reducing airborne particles and contaminants from 0.3 to 10 microns in size. 

MERV ratings range from 1 to 20, with 20 being the most effective. MERV 8 is considered the minimum required to filter particles like dust and mold from your home. For superb protection, consider installing a MERV 13 air filter in your home.

MERV filters that are rated higher than 13 are often used in residential or commercial settings that require outstanding air filtration. This might include inpatient care hospitals, general surgery facilities, or pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities.

HVAC System

Not all HVAC systems are designed for a high MERV filter. If your owner’s manual doesn’t specify what rating your filter should be, contact an HVAC technician. Using a MERV rating that’s too high for your system will cause airflow issues.

Material

Different types of filters have varying benefits and drawbacks. Below, we’ve outlined some of the most common kinds of air filters. 

Polyester, fiberglass, and other synthetic fibers

These filters are disposable and inexpensive. They capture about 80% of large particles like dust and lint.

Synthetic filters protect your HVAC system from dust and dirt buildup. They’re not the best option if you want to superior indoor air quality.

Electrostatic

These furnace filters employ self-charging fibers to attract harmful particles from the air. They are more effective and durable than synthetic filters, and also more expensive.

Electrostatic filters come in both disposable and reusable varieties. While reusable filters last longer, they also require regular cleaning.

Pleated

Pleated filters are usually disposable or recyclable. Because of their pleats, they have a larger surface area to catch more particles.

This type of filter offers solid value, effectively eliminating small and large pollutants from the air in your home.

🤷 Can I get a HEPA filter for my HVAC system? 

True HEPA (high-efficiency particulate absorbing) filters are the most effective around – they can filter particles as small as viruses! But HEPA filters won’t work in your central HVAC system. They’re so powerful, they’ll restrict airflow to and from your equipment. Instead of a HEPA filter, consider investing in one with a MERV rating of 11 or 13. That’s the closest you can get to HEPA while still letting the air circulate properly.

The Best Air Filters

The following are the specific air filters we recommend for various lifestyle needs. Make sure to select the right size for your system when ordering.

Best Air Filter for Pets

We suggest pet owners buy a filter with a minimum MERV score of 11. These Filtrete Micro Allergen Defense filters fit the bill, capturing pet dander, pollen and dust. 

We love that they’re both pleated and electrostatic, attracting contaminants on a large scale. They come in a variety of sizes to fit most HVAC systems.

This brand markets its colorful air filters specifically to pet owners. It’s worth mentioning that those filters are rated a MERV 8, which may not be sufficient for pet-friendly homes.

If you want to supplement your air filter, check out our list of the best air purifiers for pets

Buy on Amazon

pet air filters
 

Best Air Filter for Allergies

AirX makes its affordable air filters in the United States. It offers a range of options customized to individual needs.

The AirX Allergen filters are MERV 11, filtering particles as small as 1 micron, including dust, pollen, mold spores, smoke, and smog. 

These filters are only available online. Make sure you order them in multiples, so you’ll always have one on hand. 

If you have family members with asthma and allergies, consider a humidifier to help minimize symptoms as well.

Buy on Amazon

allergy air filters
 

Best Air Filter for Smokers

If someone in your home smokes, we recommend Filtrete Allergen Defense Odor Reduction filters. They feature an active carbon layer that eliminates smells like smoke and mildew. 

This electrostatically charged filter claims to be 25 times more effective at removing odors from the air than other brands on the market. It’s rated MERV 11, so it also captures lint, dust, and pollen spores.

Filtrete filters are a little more expensive than others. But we think they’re well worth it to preserve the quality of air in your home.

Buy on Amazon

smoker air filters
 

Best Air Filters for Areas with High Pollution

Filtrete Healthy Living Ultrafine Particle Reduction filters are the best for keeping out minuscule particles like those from car exhaust and smog, plus other inhalable particulate matter associated with pollution. 

With a MERV 14 rating, these electrostatic filters are highly effective. They are pricier than alternatives. But we feel you get what you pay for with these filters.

To save some money (and a trip to the store), consider enrolling in a “subscribe and save” program to ensure you never run out of filters.

Buy on Amazon

pollution air filters
 

Best Air Filter for Wildfire Smoke

The EPA recommends a minimum MERV 13 to keep wildfire smoke out of your indoor air. We like the Filterbuy Optimal Defense filter for the job. 

This electrostatic filter also features mini pleats to trap more particles. It’s built sturdy and resistant to moisture and extreme heat.

We appreciate that Filterbuy makes its filters in the U.S. with materials from U.S.-based suppliers. Bonus: you can recycle your Filterbuy filters when you’re done with them.

To supplement your air filters, consider a separate air purifier if your area is particularly prone to wildfires. 

Buy on Amazon

wildfire smoke air filters
 

Best Air Filter Value

If you’re looking for an air filter that gets it done at the lowest price, we recommend the Simply by Merv Filters MERV 8 filter. They cost about $6 each and have great reviews. 

MERV 8 is as low as we recommend going in your home to protect your HVAC equipment. These pleated filters made of fiberglass keep out dust, dirt, and mold.

Made in the U.S.A. with a frame of high-quality beverage board, these filters are sturdy and easy to install.

Buy on Amazon

value air filters
 

Still not sure which filter to buy? This guide will help you further understand MERV ratings and which best matches your lifestyle.

How Often to Change HVAC Air Filter

It’s important to change your HVAC filter every month or two, according to Energy.gov, but read your HVAC system’s owner’s manual on exact recommendations regarding air filter replacement intervals.

You may need to replace your air filter more frequently if your air conditioning system runs almost constantly because of hot conditions, if there are excessively dusty conditions in your home, or if you own pets.

Failing to replace your air filter can restrict the airflow to your heating and cooling system, which can lead to unnecessary wear and tear, high energy bills, and premature replacement. Regularly replacing or cleaning air filters can lower your home’s energy consumption by 5 to 15%.

FAQs on the Best Air Filters

What are the three types of air filters?

The three main types of filters are fiberglass, electrostatic, and pleated. The type you choose greatly affects the price and the efficiency with which it will filter out contaminants and pollutants.

How do I know what size air filter to buy?

To find the right size air filter to buy, you can use a measuring tape to measure the depth, length, and width of the air filter vent. But it’s much easier to locate your HVAC system’s owner’s manual and look for the specifications in the air filter section.

Do HVAC filters clean air?

HVAC filters can lead to cleaner air by filtering out harmful pollutants and contaminants such as allergens, dust, pet dander, and most spores. This creates a healthier indoor living environment.

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