Washable or Disposable Filters

Washable or Disposable Filters – Which is Best?

HVAC filters are an important component of your system. Their primary function is to ensure that larger particles do not get trapped inside and wear away at the machinery working so hard to maintain a comfortable temperature. Changing these filters regularly is key to optimizing HVAC performance and even extending the lifespan of your heating and cooling units. For those environmentally-conscious individuals, tossing away a large filter every few months can seem wasteful. One alternative on the market today is washable filters. This week we want to compare these supposed green alternatives against the typical disposable filter to help you decide which is best for your unique home. 


Basic Function

Your basic disposable filters are typically either fibreglass, pleated or high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filters. Washable filters on the other hand are usually electrostatic. Disposable filters use a variety of media to physically block the passage of debris through them whereas washable filters utilize static electricity to positively charge the particles so that they stick onto the filter’s surface. 



The only maintenance you need to perform with disposable filters is to remember to replace them. Homes with pets or multiple occupants should be changing their filters once every one to two months. Those with less foot traffic can usually suffice with a change every three months. Washable filters don’t need to be replaced, but they do need to be cleaned at these same intervals. Simply remove the filter and hose it down thoroughly to wash away all the build-up. It is important that you allow it to dry before returning it back to the system, as any moisture can encourage bacterial growth. Due to this, many homeowners will have two filters that they alternate so they can ensure a dry one is always available. 



Washable filters can cost, on average, three to four times more than disposable filters. Keep in mind, however, that if they are well taken care of they can have a lifespan of five to ten years. If we look at the overall costs of a $15 disposable filter, over a five-year period you’ll end up spending $300 on disposable filters if changed every three months. That’s four times the amount you’d spend in the same amount of time if you spent $75 on a washable one in the first place. 



From a purely financial perspective, it may appear that the extra work of cleaning a washable filter is a no-brainer. That being said, no conversation about filters is complete without taking a look at effectiveness. After all, it won’t matter how much money you save if your filter isn’t doing its job. Filters are measured with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV rating). The higher the rating, the better it is at filtering out particles. High-efficiency disposable filters tend to boast ratings of 9-12 MERV rating. This means they can trap as much as 95% of larger particles floating around your home. Washable filters sit at an abysmal 1-4 MERV rating. They can filter some large particles, but the majority is going to get through. 


In conclusion, washable filters can be a cheaper, more eco-friendly alternative to disposable ones as long as you’re willing to put in a bit of work to clean them. We strongly caution that any filter you purchase for your HVAC has a MERV rating of at least 5-8, whether it is disposable or not. If you have furry friends in the home or family members with respiratory concerns, feel free to bump up that number one or two notches. If you have any questions about the HVAC filters you currently use for your home, or would like to improve the performance of your whole system, contact our team of experts at McMillin Air today! 


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