Is There Really A Difference Between Air Filters?

Is There Really A Difference Between Air Filters

When it comes to air filters for home use, you likely have experience buying and changing them often. Yet, you may not have given much thought to the type of filter you buy or if there really is a difference between the one you buy and others. However, if you or anyone else in your household suffers from respiratory issues, you should know that the right filter can be your ally in providing you with the cleanest air possible. That is because more than making your equipment run as it should, an air filter can also stop contaminants such as mildew, pet dander, dust, and other debris from circulating around your home.

What Are the Most Common Types of Air Filters?

These are the most common types that may be used in a home HVAC equipment:

  • Electrostatic filters
  • HEPA filters
  • Media filters
  • Pleated filters
  • Spun glass filters
  • UV light filters
  • Washable filters

There are many differences between them since each one will serve you differently. Look for one that will work best to satisfy the needs of your home. You may be interested in purchasing a filter that works well when you need air that is free of pollutants and other allergens. Or maybe you want a filter that is just the most basic type or one that will rid the air of pet hair. These are just a few examples of what different filters may offer you.

What Materials Are Air Filters Made of?

There are different materials used in making air filters. The most common ones are:


Conventional air filters that you throw away after using them for some time are usually made from fiberglass. They allow you to see through them and will serve to stop only the largest dust particles in the air. They will not deter pollen, smoke, or other microorganisms from entering your home’s air. They need to be replaced frequently and are not too expensive.

Pleated Paper

HEPA or pleated paper filters work to stop about 45% of the particles in the air. They come in the same sizes as fiberglass filters and are easy to find. HEPA filters are more expensive and should also be replaced every couple of months.


With a capture rate of up to 95%, electronic filters have a system that utilizes ionizing cells to capture airborne pollutants. They can easily stop mildew, dust, lint, fungus, cooking grease, viruses, and mold from circulating through your home. When you buy an electronic filter, it will pay for itself by prolonging the life of your equipment and increasing its energy efficiency. An electronic filter needs to be cleaned at least monthly by either running it through your dishwasher or spraying it with a hose. They are significantly more expensive than the other filter options.

What Filter Should You Use?

With so many options available, it is hard to decide which filter may be the best for your household. In order for you to make an informed decision, here are some pros and cons for every filter type.

Electrostatic Filters

These filters create static that acts as a magnet to trap dust and other particles. They do so by using small paper and cotton fibers. You can get them in either disposable or reusable options and they are some of the most cost-effective filters on the market while doing a great job at improving the air quality that you and your loved ones breathe. On the other hand, these filters may give you trouble when it comes to filtering larger particles such as mold spores and dust which makes them a poor choice for those who suffer from respiratory conditions.

HEPA Filters

These filters are recommended by the US Department of Health due to their ability to remove almost 100% of airborne pollutants and allergens, thus providing the highest protection for your home. However, they are still unable to remove odors and gasses.

Media Filters

These filters are quite popular since they only have to be changed a couple of times a year. Also, their great surface area allows them to perform a great filtration job. However, they call for a professional to come and install them, and are not effective at eliminating odors.

Pleated Filters

These filters are great at trapping debris due to their large surface area. Also, used filters can be recycled and they require fewer replacements. However, they are not cheap and are some of the most expensive options on the market today.

Spun Glass Filters

These filters are made from fiberglass fibers that are spun together. They are quite accessible, being one of the cheapest filters out there while also doing a great job at trapping lint, dust, and debris. However, their surface area is smaller and they are not effective when it comes to filtering smaller pollutants. This does not make them a good option for people suffering from respiratory illnesses.

UV Light Filters

These filters work by using short-wave ultraviolet light to eliminate viruses and bacteria. As the air passes through your HVAC unit, the UV lamp disinfects it, killing mold and germs and providing you with exceptional indoor air. However, they are quite costly to install and may not get rid of common contaminants such as dust or allergens. They also do not work against odors or gasses.

Washable Filters

If you are looking for a filter that is environmentally friendly and reusable, a washable filter is for you. You need to only buy it once and prepare to use it for many years. However, they do need to be maintained regularly to ensure they continue to do their job. After washing them, you need to allow sufficient time to ensure they are fully dry before reinserting them into the unit. Letting your HVAC work with a damp filter is the perfect recipe for the growth of mold and mildew, making the quality of the air you breathe that much more dangerous.