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The Pros and Cons of a High-Efficiency Filter

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When it comes time to replace your furnace’s air filter, you may find yourself at a crossroads: Should you stick with the cheap disposable filters or upgrade to a pricier model?

Let’s examine the pros and cons of high-efficiency filters.

What is a High-Efficiency Filter?

A high-efficiency filter can trap nearly 100 percent of particles smaller than 0.3 microns. That means it can effectively screen out bacteria, fumes, pollen, and even viruses.

These filters will be on the higher end of the MERV rating -- that’s the minimum efficiency reporting value. The MERV scale ranges from 1 to 16. The smaller the particle the filter can capture, the higher its MERV.

High-efficiency filters are commonly made of pleated synthetic material. The pleats create a larger surface area to capture more particles.


The obvious advantage here is cleaner air.

The primary function of standard air filters, commonly made of spun fiberglass, is to prevent dust and debris from entering your HVAC unit. It does little to improve your indoor air quality.

If eliminating airborne contaminants is a priority, upgrading to a high-efficiency filter makes sense, particularly if you have respiratory issues. You’ll have less dust and your air will smell cleaner because these filters can even help remove odors.


The advanced filtering capacity can compromise the performance of your HVAC system. Your central air unit will have to work harder to push air through the tighter screen. The result? Higher energy bills and diminished comfort.

Finding a Balance

A filter with a MERV of 7 or 8 is a good compromise between HVAC performance and clean indoor air. A mid-range filter will screen out mold spores, hairspray, dust mites, and animal dander without restricting airflow.

However, if you need a high-efficiency filter, consult an HVAC pro to see if your system is compatible. In some cases, the technician can modify your central air unit to compensate for the restricted airflow.

To schedule an appointment with Sunset Heating & Cooling at (503) 500-5866.

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