For good air quality all year round, HVAC experts recommend pleated, electrostatic filters for your furnace. But should you use disposable filters or reusable, washable filters?

It can be difficult for homeowners to decide what furnace filter option is better for their needs and budget. So, we have compared the two options based on cost, environmental impact, performance, and maintenance requirements in order to help you choose the best HVAC filter. Check out the advantages and disadvantages of washable HVAC filters and how they compare to disposable filters.

The Importance of High-Quality HVAC Filters

HVAC units require filters to purify the air that circulates throughout residential systems. As air is pulled through the return vents, it passes the filter. This works to capture dust, allergens, mold, and other airborne particles and trap it within the filter. As a result, the conditioned air, which is pushed out through the ducts and back into the house, is cleaner.

Good indoor air quality promotes a healthier environment for you and your family. Lower levels of dust, pollen, allergens, and mold helps everyone breathe easier, especially those who suffer from allergies or respiratory illnesses. It also helps keep your home cleaner with less dust and debris settling on all of the interior surfaces. Plus, over time, it is an important measure for maintaining an efficient HVAC system and reliable heating and cooling operations.

What Are Washable Electrostatic Air Filters?

The biggest difference between electrostatic HVAC filters and disposable air filters is that they are washable and reusable. With electrostatic filters, the air that goes through the filter passes multiple layers of filtration media – usually woven polypropylene – which have an electrostatic charge. Airborne contaminants then become positively charged as they pass through the filter material. Working like a magnet, the debris particles stick to the filter media as the air flows through the layers of the filter. Finally, the output is clean air that is ready to be recirculated throughout the house.

Advantages of Washable HVAC Filters

Purchase & Replacement Costs

When weighing the expense of HVAC filters, it’s best to look at the long-term costs. It’s true that washable furnace filters are more expensive. The average price for a quality washable filter ranges from $60 to $120. Disposable filters are much cheaper; the average price for a 12-pack ranges from about $35 to $90.

Though the upfront cost is higher, it’s important to consider the fact that washable filters are expected to last nearly the same number of years as your unit. By calculating the invest over the lifetime of an HVAC system, homeowners can save money in the long run.

Environmental Impact

Eco-friendly homeowners tend to prefer reusable filters. Replacing disposable filters regularly – every three months as recommended – can really add up in terms of waste. Once you remove the old filter, recycling and disposal options are limited in most areas. By comparison, washable filters are a more environmentally friendly option because they can be reused again and again for an average of 5-10 years.

Disadvantages of Washable HVAC Filters

Air Filtering Effectiveness

Washable air filters don’t have a strong reputation for air purifying performance and have an average MERV rating between 1 and 4. They work fine at catching larger airborne contaminants such as dust, dust mites, carpet fibers, and pollen. Superior disposable filters for residential HVAC systems offer better efficiency, up to a MERV rating of 12. These high-quality disposable options can capture up to 95% of smaller particles including pet dander, mold spores, and bacteria.

The one important advantage in relations to reusable filters is that they can be washed and reinstalled as often as you like. This can help decrease the amount of mold and mildew growth on the filter itself.

Maintenance Time

Both types of filters require some regular maintenance. Where disposable air filters simply need to be replaced every 30 to 90 days, reusable filters require washing. (See the care instructions below.) This can be a bit more time consuming than just removing the old filter and putting in a new one.

Watch this video for more advice on how to choose from the various HVAC filter options out there.

How to Care for a Washable HVAC Filter

Furnace filters attract mold, dust, dirt and contaminants which builds up inside the fibers. To ensure the best possible air quality when the heating or air conditioning is running, reusable filters need to be cleaned regularly.

  1. Simply use running water to wash away residue and dirt. This can be done in a sink or tub or even outside using a garden hose. Having an adjustable faucet or sprayer can help speed up the process and power away tougher buildup.
  2. Leave the filter to dry in a bright, well-ventilated area. This step is important because excess moisture can become a breeding ground for mold, mildew, and fungus growth.
  3. Once the washable filter is clean and completely dry, it’s ready to be put back into the HVAC system.

Other High-Performing Air Filter Options

Your HVAC tech can give you advice on other, premium-level furnace filter options. Electronic air filters and high-efficiency media filters, for example, deliver great air quality. They assist homeowners by removing contaminants from the air thereby decreasing related symptoms from allergies, asthma and other respiratory illnesses. They are inexpensive to install and maintain while helping your HVAC system to run well in for years to come.

Have you scheduled your annual HVAC maintenance check?

It’s that time of year again! Call AQM to make an appointment before the cold weather hits.

Call AQM at (610) 363-3940 or request services online.

AQM, Inc.