A Guide to Furnace Filters

This Old House

We recently posted a guide to tuning up your HVAC system for the winter. By this time your furnace is probably going into overdrive, and regularly maintaining and replacing your furnace's filter is key to keeping your system running smoothly. But, if you've ever been in the filter section at the hardware store you're familiar with the overwhelming number of options — and prices that come along with filters. This Old House recently published a guide that simply breaks down the primary furnace filter options, explaining the cost, maintenance and performance differences.

This guide should help you decide which furnace is best for you, depending on how much money you want to spend, how often you're willing to clean and replace the filters, and what MERV rating you want (minimum efficiency reporting value — the higher the number, the better). This Old House breaks it down:

Panel, $1-3: Made from fiberglass or polyester in a cardboard frame; should be replaced every 30 days. MERV Rating: up to 3. Performance: Does little more than protect your furnace from dust.

Washable, $30-110: Made from polyester in an aluminum or ridged polyesthylene frame; if cleaned monthly, will last up to five years. MERV Rating: 5 - 7. Performance: Convenient, but not as good as pleated.

Pleated, $3-7: Made of folded cotton polyester in a cardboard frame; should be replaced every 90 days. MERV Rating: 5 - 8. Performance: The pleats create a larger surface area, which grabs more particles, making it a good value option.

Electrostatic, $5-25: Made from electrostatically charged polypropylene; should be replaced at least every 90 days. Performance: This is the best performing option — the charged fibers capture everything from mold to smoke.

Pick up the current January/February 2011 issue, or visit ThisOldHouse.com for more information.

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(Image: Preferred Home Repair & Services)

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