How to Choose Air Conditioner Filters

Danny Lipford shows the selection of air conditioner filters available for purchase
A quality pleated air conditioner filter, pictured at the left, will catch more particles than a cheap grocery store filter, pictured at the right.

How well your central heating and cooling system cleans the air largely depends on the quality of your air conditioner filters.

Filters are rated from 1 to 16 on the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value scale. The MERV scale is based on the percentage of particles, from 0.3 to 10 microns in size, that the filter catches. The higher the MERV number, the better it filters the air.

The Microparticle Performance Rating measures very small particles between 0.3 and 1 microns. Ratings on the MPR scale range from 0-2200. The higher the number, the smaller the particles that a filter removes.

Mold spores and pollen are usually in the 10-30 micron range; bacteria, 2-3 micron; and tobacco smoke, 0.5 micron.

Understanding the MERV Scale

Here are some guidelines to consider when choosing air conditioner filters:

  • MERV 1-4 Air Filters: These inexpensive fiberglass mesh filters only remove particles over 10 microns in size. They do little to improve the indoor air quality in your home.
  • 5-8 Air Filters: These medium-quality pleated air filters can remove particles down
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How to Extend Your Heating and Cooling System’s Life

Setting thermostat with finger
Your heating and cooling system will last longer if you follow a regular maintenance plan. (DepositPhotos)

When it comes to your home’s heating and cooling system, you know that replacing it can be expensive.

So, getting the most out of your current system should be your goal to delay a large — upward of $4,000 — replacement cost.

Here are some tips that will allow
you to increase the lifespan of your heating and cooling system.


Friendly American Standard HVAC technician, who is wearing a cap, smiles, holds a clipboard, and stands beside a condenser unit
A heating and cooling specialist should check your air conditioner at least twice a year.

1. Get Annual Tune-Ups

You need to get tune-ups twice a year (once for heating and once for cooling). Get your furnace checked just before its winter use and your air conditioner checked just before the hot months of summertime.

These maintenance visits will ensure that your system is running optimally. Your tune-up professional will lubricate and inspect all system parts for functionality. They’ll replace filters, clean out drain holes and check your refrigerant levels.


Man changing air conditioner filter
You should change your heating and cooling filter every 90 days. (DepositPhotos)

2. Change the Heating and Cooling System’s Filters

Your heating and cooling system has filters that require changing or cleaning every

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