Green Lifestyle

Published on June 30th, 2015 | by Peter Young


Furnace filter options: best choices for health and efficiency

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A great way to ensure that your home is using energy efficiently is to regularly change and monitor your furnace filter. But which filters are best at actually filtering the air? Which ones are re-usable and how can I tell? Don’t worry. We’ve come up with some answers to these questions and hopefully you’ll be able to apply what you learn here in making your home both healthier and more energy efficient.

A guide to furnace filters

Today, there are all sorts of options for replacing your furnace filter. You can get filters that are electrostatic, non-electrostatic, re-usable, one time use, pleated, non-pleated and so on. This guide will help to eliminate some of the mystery surrounding furnace filters and provide you with information so that you can select the best filter for your home.

The different types of filters

There are four different types of filters for your furnace, but which one makes the most sense? Well, it all depends on what you need that filter to do, check out the following breakdown of the four common types of furnace filters:

Disposable fiberglass. These are the most common types of furnace filters that you’ll find in use today. They are inexpensive ($1-$2 per filter) but they don’t tend to filter much of anything out of the air. It will help to remove large particles, but smaller things like pollens, dust and mites will still get through.

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Disposable pleated. These are the second most common type of furnace filter that you’ll find in use today. They’re typically made of cotton or polyester and are slightly more expensive ($4-$5 per filter). The pleated design allows for this type of filter to be more effective at removing things like mites and spores from the air, but it unfortunately needs to be replaced every 3-4 months.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 2.31.36 PMDisposable electrostatic. These are likely the least common type of furnace filter in use, but they are one of the better options when it comes to filtering your home’s air. The electrostatic charge that’s placed on the filter allows it to be far more efficient at removing dust, pollens, mites, dander, smog etc. They are a bit more expensive ($5-$10 per filter), but will do a whole lot more when it comes to filtering your air.

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Permanent electrostatic. These filters offer by far the best bang for your buck when it comes to furnace filters. Not only are they re-usable, meaning you’ll save money over time and create less waste, but they’re the most efficient at filtering the air. They are on the pricy side ($15-$45 per filter), but they should last at least 5 years before ever needing to be replaced (if at all).

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How can you tell if your filter is reusable

Reusable filters are great, but how can one tell if they have one that is? It’s actually pretty easy. If you’re filter is reusable it should have a metal type grid on its surface, and in some cases the filter will come free of the frame to allow for easier cleaning. If your filter looks like one of the other three listed above and feels soft to the touch (like it’s made of cotton), than sadly it isn’t reusable

How to clean your reusable air filter. Just watch this short video to get a review of the material you just read as well as some tips on how you can clean your reusable filter. You can skip to the 1:45 or so minute-mark on this video to see how the cleaning of the filter actually works.


  1. Remove the filter from the furnace, making note which side faces inward, so that when you replace it, you’re going to do it right.
  2. Vacuum all the dust off the filter with a vacuum brush attachment.
  3. Only after you get all the grit and dust off the filter, spray the filter down with a hose.
  4. Let it dry, and replace it the same way it came out of the furnace or A/C unit.

 A quick note on MERV ratings

As you’re browsing all the different options for your next furnace filter you’ll likely come across a MERV rating. Well, MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values and numbers will be assigned on a scale of 1-20. The higher the number, the more efficient that filter is at removing gunk from your air. Simple enough, but don’t just buy the highest MERV rated filter you can find. Why? Because it may actually cause your furnace to run inefficiently or even harm parts of the motor.

In order for the filter to be better at filtering the air, it has to allow less air to get through it. Thus it’s increased ability to capture particles, dust, mites etc. So how does one know which MERV rating is best for their system? You’ll have to check with the manufacturer of your furnace. Systems are designed with specific airflow requirements in mind, and as such, they should be able to provide you with the MERV rating that is just right for your system.

Photo courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons, worldwide filters, amazon (1)(2)

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About the Author

graduated from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) with a degree in journalism and has made sustainability and eco-conscious living mainstays of both his professional and personal life. It was during his time at PLU that he began his journey with sustainability and it's what has led him to writing for Green Living Ideas. He currently resides in Honolulu and works for Pono Home, an energy efficiency company focused on reducing carbon emissions and promoting a healthier, greener lifestyle.

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