Spring has arrived and along with it the sneezing, itching, sniffling, and coughing associated with the season. Who can enjoy the smell of the blooming flowers with a stuffy nose or a walk around the neighborhood without itchy eyes? It’s easy for most people to blame their symptoms on Mother Nature, but did you know most allergy symptoms are caused by our INDOOR allergies? We’re here to clear the air.

The Most Common Indoor Allergies

Even for those that don’t typically suffer from seasonal allergies or asthma, there are hidden triggers lurking in your home. Most people don’t realize that there are higher air pollution levels measured in the average home than outside – anywhere from two to five times higher, depending on where you live. The five most common? Mold, pet hair and dander, dust mites, insect droppings, and pollen. You may be wondering how those things affect you, as you don’t imagine them swirling around in the air, but many of them are stirred up during household cleaning. So, no matter how often you clean your home, you could still be feeling the effects.

Your HVAC: Is It Helping or Aggravating Your Allergies

The role of a HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system of your home is similar to your lungs. It should bring the good, clean air in, filter it, and circulate it. But unlike your lungs, it can’t dissipate the bad outside your home. That is where a good filter comes in. Filters help minimize exposure to allergens flowing through your HVAC system. Depending on your unit, some HVAC systems draw in filtered air from the outside to increase ventilation, while standard units re-circulate air inside your home. The effectiveness of a filter is commonly measured in MERVs (minimum efficiency recording values) on a scale from 1 to 20, with 20 being the highest level of filtration.

Not All HVAC Filters Are Created Equal

Choosing the right filter for your HVAC system can be confusing with so many different options to choose from. There are four different types of filters that are common in most systems. Knowing their efficiency level is key for choosing the right one for your lifestyle and your home or office.

  • Flat panel filters – This type of filter is found in nearly every HVAC system as the first line of filtration for any furnace. With a MERV rating of only one to four, it’s not truly meant to improve air quality so much as to protect the furnace system. If this is the only type of filtration in your system, beware—dirt, dust, mold, and allergens are being circulated throughout your home and increasing energy costs. While the inexpensive cost of these filters can be alluring, they can lead to costly damage down the line, and if the poor air quality doesn’t make your eyes water, the cost of HVAC repair due to preventable care certainly will.
  • Medium efficiency filters – This is the most common type of filter found in homes. With a pleated design and larger surface area than flat panel filters, a medium efficiency filter is able to trap more particles from the air. These filters range from a 5 to 13 on the MERV rating scale. Generally, the closer to the higher rating, the better, as the system will work more efficiently by filtering out the most common household allergens. This filter is great for those that have homes with pets and children, as it is designed to trap hair, dander, and mold.
  • High efficiency filters – With a higher MERV rating of 14 to 16, this type of filter removes even smaller particles than the pleated or mesh medium efficiency filters. At this level of system filtration, the price begins to rise. For those sensitive to VOCs (volatile organic compounds), this is the ideal level of filtration. The strength of this filter removes not only air particles, but also the odors associated with them, which are typically emitted from the burning of gas, wood, kerosene, or personal care products and cleaning agents.
  • HEPA filters – High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are the highest rated on the MERV scale, with a rating of 17 to 20. Due to their expense, this level of filtration is not commonly recommended for homes unless you have a new and highly efficient system in place or have severe allergies or asthma. A HEPA filter is designed to catch almost everything from pollutants to bacteria and viruses.

Cost VS Efficiency

As with most products, the higher the efficiency level, the more money you can expect to dish out. So, is the highest level of filter always worth it? First things first, you need to figure out your filtration priorities. Most homes do well with a medium efficiency filtration system. It’s affordable and filters out many of the most common indoor air pollutants. If you have young children, sensitive allergies, or other health concerns, sometimes paying more for a higher efficiency filtration system can be worth it in the long run. Some higher efficiency filters are now made to be cleaned and reused, which can help save money. Make sure you check the filter applications. Some filters comparable in MERV rating or price, may differ in application—one filtering bacteria while the other may not. That all depends on the brand. Be sure if you’re investing into your HVAC system and expect it to work, it’s important to be sure to change your filters regularly. Failing to do so can clog or slow the system, along with putting stress on it. This can lead to mold growth, odor, poor air quality and circulation, and even costly repairs to your system.

City Heating & Air: The Solution to Your HVAC needs

Choosing the right filtration system, performing regular maintenance, and deciding when it’s time for duct cleaning can be a lot to juggle, especially with a busy schedule. Let the experts at City Heating & Air help so you can breathe easy. We provide quality, local service to all of East Tennessee, including installation, cleaning, and maintenance of your HVAC system. If you’re curious about how your system stands up to efficiency standards, we can do a free assessment and offer solutions on how to save you money over the life of your unit. City Heat & Air also offers 24/7 emergency service, annual inspections, and monthly maintenance plans. With our residential, commercial and new construction services, we are here to help, no matter your need! To get a free quote or to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable and friendly technicians, call 865-938-1005 or email us!