Which Air Filter is Better for Your Home: An Electronic Air Purifier or Standard Air Filter

by | Mar 23, 2022

happy family enjoying clean purified air

Spring is in the air and seasonal allergies are being triggered, which has homeowners seeking solutions for better air filtration in their homes. But maintaining your home’s air quality isn’t a seasonal matter as dust, pet dander, mold, and other allergens are everywhere year-round. This is why effective air filtration in your home’s heating and cooling system is so important!

There are two primary types of air filters typically used in home HVAC systems: standard air filters, of which there are a variety of options, and electronic air purifier. Below, we share the differences and how to know which air filter is right for your home’s heating and air conditioning system.


Standard Air Filters

Standard air filters capture small airborne particles as they pass through your home’s heating and air conditioning system, working in a similar fashion to the lint trap in your drier. As the filter becomes dirty with captured particles it will need to either be replaced or cleaned, depending on the type of filter. 

Some standard air filters are meant to be used, disposed of, and replaced, while others can be washed and reused. In either case, it is best to change or replace your air filter on a regular basis. We recommend changing or replacing air filters every few months or with the change of seasons–spring, summer, fall, and winter.

There are three different types of standard filters. Each offers benefits and a different minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating. An air filter’s MERV rating reflects how effectively the filter traps dust particles and other contaminants. The higher the MERV rating, the more effective the air filter.

  • Pleated Media Filter (Disposable & Reusable)

Pleated media filters offer a range of effectiveness, depending on the design and number of pleats. The pleats increase the surface area for catching airborne particles. They also come in either disposable forms or reusable (aka washable) forms. The MERV rating for pleated media filters is typically between 5 and 13 on the low end, or between 14 and 16 on the high end.

  • Flat-Paneled Fiberglass Filter (Disposable)

Flat-paneled fiberglass filters are disposable air filters made of layered fiberglass and a metal-reinforcing grate. Filters of this type tend to have a lower MERV rating between 1 and 4, capable of only capturing larger debris like pet hair, carpet fibers, and lint. They are ineffective at trapping fine particles like smoke and other air pollutants and are not the best choice for really improving your home’s air quality.

  • High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filter (Disposable)

Most home HVAC systems are not designed to support HEPA filters, which are usually found in commercial or medical settings. HEPA filters have a MERV rating of 16 and are able to remove 99.97% of airborne particles. HEPA filters provide the highest protection for your home and can be very beneficial to people with severe allergies or respiratory issues. However, switching to a HEPA filter may require costly modifications to your home HVAC system. We recommend consulting with a professional HVAC contractor like Gross Heating & Air Condition for more information. 


Electronic Air Purifiers 

Electronic air purifiers use electrostatic (electrically charged) filters to reduce the number of airborne contaminants in your home. Electrostatic filters usually consist of small cotton and paper fibers that create static which acts like a magnet to attract and trap airborne particles. Some electrostatic filters contain multiple layers of materials meant to charge particles as they pass through, increasing the effectiveness of the filter. Like standard filters, electrostatic filters are available in disposable and reusable forms. In either case, they should also be cleaned or replaced on a regular basis to ensure they are performing optimally.

While electrostatic filters are some of the most cost-effective options on the market–especially the washable kind–they typically have a lower MERV rating. Electrostatic filters typically capture less than 20% of dust particles and are only capable of trapping larger particles. Allergens and other airborne pollutants smaller than pollen, pet hair, or carpet fibers, for example, will not be filtered out of the air, so an electrostatic air filter is probably not the best choice for someone with allergies or asthma.


Which type of air filter is better for your home?

The best air filter for your home depends on what matters most to you. For some homeowners, especially those with severe allergies, asthma, or other respiratory issues, air quality is the number one concern. In this case, an air filter with a higher MERV rating is going to be the best bet. For others, the cost of the filter and how often it needs to be replaced is the bigger priority. 

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be an either-or scenario. There are cost-effective air filter options that also have high MERV ratings. If you are not certain what filter is right for you and your home’s HAVC system, we can help. The experienced technicians at Gross Heating & Air Conditioning are knowledgeable in standard and electrostatic air filtration systems. Contact us today for a free assessment of your system and a recommendation for the best air filter for you.

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Gross Heating & Air Conditioning
3260 N. 126th Street
Brookfield, WI 53005
Phone: 262-783-6000
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