How to Choose the Right HVAC Filter

At Oliver, we suggest inspecting and changing or cleaning your HVAC filter every 1-3 months, depending on the type of filter you’re using and if you live with pets. If you’ve never changed your filter before, however, you may not know what type to use. We’re here to help:

Consider the MERV Number

Each filter’s effectiveness is documented by its Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). The MERV number (1-20) determines what types of contaminants the filter controls. The lower the number, the lower quality the filter. For example, the 5-8 variety are what most residential homes use. These filters control mold, pet dander, mildew, and dust. A MERV rating of 10-16 will do a much better job of cleaning the air you breathe. We highly recommend these filters for families with allergy and asthma issues.

Decide Which Type


Pleated filters are the most popular HVAC filter. They are thin, but have a large surface area so they are great for trapping contaminants. They remove up to 45% of the pollutants in your home and have a MERV rating around 8-13.


Washable filters also trap larger contaminants like lint and dust, but they can collect bacteria and cause mold if not properly dried. They also have a low MERV rating and are often used in situations featuring high volumes of dust. These don’t do much more than keep the equipment clean.


Fiberglass filters are very thin and simple, so they do a good job at collecting large particles like lint and dust, but don’t capture smaller particles like mold and bacteria. These filters are inexpensive and usually have a MERV rating of 1-4. They are also good for keeping the equipment clean, but not much more.


High-efficiency filters have come a long way. Today, they can remove up to 85% of contaminants and are rated very highly on the MERV scale (14-16).

Get the Right Size

Filters are sized in two ways – nominal and actual. The nominal size is the approximate size of the filter rounded up to the nearest inch and the actual size gives you the actual dimensions of the filter. Before you buy one, consult your HVAC owner’s manual to make sure you’re getting the right one.

Our HVAC service technicians would be happy to help you replace your HVAC filter. Just fill out our form to schedule an appointment.

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