no-nonsense guide to air filters!
Cumberland Cooling’s no-nonsense guide to air filters! Just what you’ve always wanted!
You may have noticed: we like to keep it simple around here. From DIY condenser coil cleaning to advocating for the cheapest filters on the block, we take a pretty pragmatic approach to heating and cooling.
Even so, maintaining your heating and cooling equipment can seem like a lot — and let’s face it, everything seems like a lot right now.
What Do Air Filters Do?
First things first. What do air filters do? With forced-air heating and cooling systems, the air gets sucked in through the return vents located throughout your house, goes through the air filter, and then through your HVAC system; where the air is either heated or cooled, depending on the season and your whims.
Both your furnace and A/C share a single filter, so that’s good. But which filter should you use?
You’ve waited long enough. Here’s our no-nonsense guide to air filters!
MERV vs. MPR vs. FPR: WHAT THE HECK DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Hey, it’s going to be okay. Take a breath and whatever you do, don’t read the newspaper. Seriously, we’ve got enough going on right now that there’s no need for the air filter alphabet soup — or today’s headlines — to get you down.
MERV Rating = Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value
This one is more or less the industry standard. And by “more or less” we mean that it’s the primary rating system used by the good folks at the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
The MERV rating indicates a filter’s ability to trap particles and pollutants. It’s also the only nationally regulated, independent rating system for air filters.
Oh, and allow us a teeny digression here … did you know that the good folks here at Cumberland Cooling are in the arts? Yup! We love that ASHRAE’s mission is “To serve humanity by advancing the arts and sciences of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration and their allied fields.”
Serving humanity! That’s us in a nutshell.
MPR = Micro-Particle Performance Rating
This rating is a bit of marketing wizardry, to be honest. The Microparticle Performance Rating (MPR) system rates an air filter’s ability to capture the smallest airborne particles — from 0.3 to 1 micron — from the air that passes through the filter.
Sounds pretty impressive until you realize that the rating system was developed by 3M. To give credit where credit’s due, the MPR system can help in comparing filters based on the level of air filtration needed.
FPR = Filter Performance Rating
Score another one for the branding experts. The Filter Performance Rating (FPR) rating is a system developed by the Home Depot for brands — like Honeywell — sold through their stores. Functionally, it works a lot like the MERV rating.
So, which air filter do I need for my furnace and air conditioner?
Yeah, yeah. We know that’s what you’re thinking and we know it’s tempting to buy the best. After all, who wants to inhale particles? But save a few bucks and go for the filters with the lower ratings. Yes, even if you have allergies.
Expensive filters may not impact your indoor air quality all that much and they certainly aren’t good for the health and wellbeing of your heating and air conditioning unit. The main function of a furnace filter is to keep your HVAC systems healthy and running cleanly and efficiently.
Here’s the thing: your furnace and air conditioner aren’t designed to improve your home’s indoor air quality. They’re designed to keep you comfortable. The heavier and thicker your highly-rated furnace filter is, the harder your furnace is going to work. The trade-off to cleaner air is that the performance of your system will drop dramatically.
Want to improve your indoor air quality? We recommend investing in a whole-house air filter or electrode humidifier. They’ll work better and your heating and cooling equipment will last longer.
Oh! One more thing: remember to install the air filter of your choice with the arrow pointing in the direction of your HVAC unit’s airflow.
Live in East Nashville or Madison? Contact Cumberland Cooling at 615-576-0742 to discuss furnace filters and indoor air quality. As always, estimates and opinions are free.