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Use The Chart To Compare Filters

Use The Chart To Compare Filters 1.00/5 (20.00%) 1 vote

There are many different types of furnace filters and air conditioner filters available to use in your home. If you are not familiar with the different types of heating and air conditioning filters, the first step is to familiarize yourself with the most popular types and avoid being overwhelmed by the many different brands, manufacturers and specialty filters.

compare furnace filters

The chart below does not review brands, efficiencies or try to guide you to buy any particular type of filter. It is just a way to help you compare furnace filters and air conditioner filters in one place so that it will be easier to move forward once you have decided which type you want to use. Once you are familiar with the different types of filters available, begin comparing brands and other information to determine which one to use in the equipment that services your house, apartment or business.

Some important things to consider when comparing furnace filters:

  • There is no difference between a furnace filter and an air conditioner filter.
  • When selecting a filter type, the brand name is not important.
  • Choose the characteristics you like about a filter type and then compare filters of that type to make your final choice. For example there is no point in wasting your time reviewing the different electrostatic air filters available if you don’t like the idea of doing regular maintenance.
  • The best filter for you may be a combination of filters to provide you with the indoor air quality you are looking for.
  • Air filters and air cleaners are not the same. I have included 2 air cleaners at the bottom of the table because they are often referred to as air filters and they can be used with air filters in any ac or heating system to improve iaq (indoor air quality).
  • When replacing filters it is never a good idea to (stack) use more than one media air filter in your HVAC equipment. It has a negative impact on air flow.  Example, installing two 1 inch filters together instead of installing a 2 inch filter.

Use the chart below to compare furnace filters

Pros Cons Characteristics Filter Specific Notes
Fiberglass Panel Filters
fiberglass panel filters
  • Inexpensive
  • Low air flow restriction
  • Full depth loading
  • Panel filter
  • Available at most hardware stores
  • Not efficient
  • Allow most dust to pass through
  • Disposable
  • 1 and 2 inch thickness
  • Panel filters
  • Fiberglass panel filters are the worst possible air filter you could use in your heating or air conditioning system and I would never recommend using them
Media Air Filter Pads
media air filter pads media air filter pads
  • Low air flow restriction
  • Don’t have to be changed as often as pleated filters
  • Great for those who sometimes  forget to change or clean their filters
  • Not face loading (increases dust loading capacity)
  • Can be messy to change because they have to be removed from a frame which can release dust back into the air
  • Not as efficient as high end pleated air filters
  • Disposable
  • 1/2, 1 and 2 inch thickness
  • Available in pre-cut pads or rolls that can be cut to size
  • Require metal filter frame to mount them in
  • Very high dust loading capacity (full depth of media) because of multi-denier design characteristics
  • Good for those who require more flexibility with filter change schedules
  • Carbon filter pads can be installed with these media pads for odor control
  • Permanent frame with disposable pads
  • Usually made with polyester fibers bonded together
  • Often available with dry tack or other coating to increase efficiency
  • Some designs make their filter media more course on the air leaving side to improve filter performance
Electrostatic Air Filters True electrostatic filters don’t require electricity.

electrostatic air filter cutaway boair electrostatic furnace filter aluminum frame electrostatic filter

  • Permanent and washable
  • Moderate air flow restriction
  • Most last for years
  • Many have lifetime warranties
  • No face loading (increases dust loading capacity)
  • No electricity required
  • No ozone is produced with these filters
  • One time purchase cost – saves you money
  • Many different designs and not all are good quality
  • If not properly maintained they will restrict air flow
  • Regular cleaning is required
  • Don’t require electricity
  • Washable
  • Should be cleaned monthly
  • 1/2 and 1 inch thick
  • Custom sizes often available
  • aluminum or flex frames available
  • Panel design
  • Maintenance is very important with these filters
  • Green? They don’t add to landfill usage compared to disposables because they last many years
  • Some brands use anti microbial protection which inhibits the growth of mold and mildew on the filter material
  • Direct replacement for disposable panel filters
  • Combines 3 to 5 layers of material to obtain desired characteristics
  • Electrostatic air filters don’t produce ozone
Pleated Air Filters
pleated furnace filter
  • Available in wide range of MERV ratings from 5 to 12
  • Low to moderate air flow restriction
  • Panel filter
  • Can be found at most hardware stores
  • If not changed when needed they will impact air flow
  • Face loading (pleated design helps increase dust loading capacity)
  • Most common type of furnace filter and air conditioner filter available
  • Some brands are enhanced with electrostatic characteristics
  • Variety of media types – cotton, synthetic blends and polyester
  • Some are made with carbon (charcoal) impinged material to help control odor
  • Many manufacturers such as Trion, Honeywell, Nordic Filtrete, Air Bear and many others
  • Made with pleated design to increase surface area and dust loading capacity, this increases usable life
Hepa Pure Air Filters
(This is not a true Hepa filter)

hepa furnace filter

What does HEPA stand for?
High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance

  • Panel filter
  • Very efficient filters
  • One of the most efficient filters available for residential use
  • Can have a negative impact on air flow, especially if not maintained properly
  • Face loading (pleated design helps increase dust loading capacity)
  • 1, 2 and 4 inch thickness
  • Pleated design
  • Good choice for those who have allergies
  • Hepa filters are often available in bypass systems
  • Similar design as standard pleated filters but more pleats per inch and different filter material
  • Some can be cleaned and reused several times
  • These filters are commonly used in vacuum cleaners, air exchangers (HRV) and air purifiers
Electronic Air CleanersI consider any type of air filter that uses electricity to be an electronic air filter.
  • Very efficient but not with larger dust particles
  • Virtually no restriction to air flow
  • Excellent for use in combination with panel and other media air filters
  • Lasts for many years
  • Requires 120 or 240 volt power supply
  • Larger dust particles pass through this air cleaner
  • Duct system must be modified to install this equipment (not difficult for handyman)
  • Expensive initial investment compared to media type air filters
  • Can create ozone
  • Charges dust particles as they pass through and they are attracted to collection plates
  • Requires regular maintenance to maintain efficient operation
  • There are two different designs of electronic air filters to choose from 1) Uses electronic cells with collection plates and 2) Panel type electronic filters that incorporate filter media in the design
UV Air Cleaners
  • No restriction to air flow
  • Excellent for use in combination with media air filters such as pleated and electrostatic
  • Can be easily installed by a handyman
  • Easy maintenance – change lamp once per year
  • Requires electricity to operate
  • Create ozone – some are worse than others
  • Kills mold spores, viruses, bacteria, and many allergens
  • Some lamps produce UV-V light while others produce UV-C light
  • The UV-V type ultraviolet lamp  produces more ozone
  • Avoid looking directly at the light because it could damage your eyes
  • Damages plastic drain pans and rubber components so must be installed properly


About the author: Don has been working in the HVAC industry for more than 25 years and shares his experience and knowledge on this site. If you find the information presented here helpful please share with your friends.

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