If you have central heating and air, then you know how imperative it is to keep your system in pristine condition. Because your air conditioning can be so crucial when the weather turns hot, you want to be sure that you’re doing everything you can to keep everything running smoothly and efficiently. While there are many different ways to do this, one of the simplest and most effective is to have the best ac filters.
Today we want to go over the various elements of ac furnace filters, including how to take care of them and when to change them. These items can have a significant impact not only on the quality of the air you breathe but the overall efficiency of your central air conditioning. Thus, you want to be sure that you’re picking the best model for your needs. Let’s see what these have to offer.
Best AC Filters for 2020 - Comparison Chart
Filtrete Clean Living Dust Reduction
24 x 12 x 1 inches
Nordic Pure Pleated AC Furnace Air Filter
20 x 20 x 1 inches
FilterBuy AFB Pleated AC Furnace Air Filter
23.5 x 13.3 x 3.3 inches
4/4 out of 5
NaturalAire Odor Eliminator Air Filter
12 x 1 x 12 inches
24" X 14 Steel Return Air Filter Grille for 1" Filter
1 x 14 x 24 inches
5 Best AC Filters For 2020 - In Depth Reviews
1. Filtrete Clean Living Dust Reduction
When picking better a/c filters, you want to be sure that you’re getting the right level of protection. Thus, one of the most crucial elements to pay attention to is the MERV rating. However, if you buy from 3M like with these filters, then you’ll be looking at the MPR rating instead.
While we’ll go into the details of these rankings later on, they refer to how well the filter can trap particles in the air. The higher the number, the better they are at scrubbing the air clean. In this case, we have an MPR rating of 600 (MERV 7), which is on the lower end of the spectrum. As such, these filters are designed for dust, lint, and pollen. Overall, they are going to be reliable and cost-effective, and they can allow for greater airflow through your system.
To help make these filters even more efficient, they come with 3M’s patented three-in-one technology. The material works harder to trap all particles from the air, meaning that you can breathe easier while they are installed. They’re also electrostatically charged to act as magnets for dust and pollen.
In this case, you get a pack of six filters. Since they are rated to last up to three months, that means that you don’t have to worry about replacing them for over a year. Peace of mind comes standard with the Filtrate brand.
- Electrostatic-ally charged to capture more particles
- Three-in-one filter technology for better efficiency
- 600 MPR (equal to MERV 7)
- Pleated to have more surface area
- Pack of six will last more than a year
- Many sizes available
- Ideal for dust and pollen removal
- Frame can feel a bit flimsy
- Material may not hold up in some hot conditions
2. Nordic Pure 20x20x1M8-6 MERV 8 Pleated AC Furnace Air Filter
When it comes to high-quality a/c filters, Nordic Pure is one of the more well-recognized brands out there. While the company is not quite as high-end as names like Honeywell or 3M, these filters come with some incredible features that can make your system run as smoothly as possible.
One thing that we really like about these filters is that they are antimicrobial and hypoallergenic. Since they’re trapping all kinds of particles like dust, pollen, and mold, it’s nice to know that they won’t become a breeding ground for bacteria and spores. Thus, when changing your filter, you don’t have to worry about creating a health hazard when handling the old one.
When comparing these to other a/c filters, you’ll notice that they have a MERV rating of 8. Usually, the best option is between 7-10, but it really depends on your system. These filters are slightly better than the ones listed above, which means that they can trap more particles in the air. Also, because they’re pleated and electrostatic ally charged, they will do it as efficiently as possible.
Another element we appreciate about these filters is that they’re made of recycled materials. Thus, if you’re concerned about the environment, you can feel good about using these. Also, they’re made in the USA, so you can feel even better.
- Many sizes available
- MERV 8 rating
- Traps mold as well as dust
- Hypoallergenic and antimicrobial material
- Pleated for more surface area
- Electrostatically charged
- In rare cases, the size dimensions may not be precise
- May be too thick for some a/c systems
3. FilterBuy AFB MERV 8 14x24x1
For the most part, a/c filters are going to be made of relatively cheap materials. While this can help you cut down on cost, it can also mean that the screen can break down quickly if you’re not careful. This is mainly a problem if you live in an area with high humidity, as the water vapor can cause the material to rot a lot faster.
Fortunately, if you buy these filters from FilterBuy, you won’t experience this problem. These models are made with beverage board around the edges, which can hold up to high humidity with no issues. Thus, you can rely on these filters no matter where you live or how hot your home gets.
Another way that these filters are superior to other brands is that they have more pleats. The purpose of pleating is to add surface area to the screen so that it can last longer before you have to change it. In this case, you can rely on them for a full three months (depending on your air quality). Overall, these are going to be some incredible a/c filters for your home. Also, because this is a pack of four, you won’t have to buy replacements for a whole year.
- Many sizes available
- MERV 8 rating
- Traps up to 90% of airborne particles
- Lasts up to three months
- Rugged construction
- Ideal for dust, pollen, and mold
- More pleats than other brands
- In rare cases, the units may arrive damaged
- In some instances, the size may be a little off
4. NaturalAire Odor Eliminator Air Filter
Although having the best a/c filters can help you improve the overall air quality of your home, one thing that you can’t control is the smell of your air. If you have anything foul going through your system, you’ll have to deal with it until it either goes away or you get used to the scent.
Fortunately, with these filters from NaturalAire, you don’t have to worry about strong odors creating a problem in your home. What sets these filters apart is the fact that they are coated with a thin film of baking soda. Just as this stuff can eliminate smells from your refrigerator, it can do the same with your air. Thus, if you’re worried about odors, these are the filters to buy.
Another thing that we like about these models is that they come with reinforced frames. As we mentioned, many brands out there will use soft, somewhat flimsy materials, which can break down or come apart relatively fast. In this case, the filter frames are coated with clay to help them stay rigid and resist the usual wear and tear you can expect. It also helps ensure that you get a full 90 days out of each filter. Since you get a pack of four, that gives you a whole year of clean, odor-free breathing.
- Many sizes available
- Clay-coated frame for durability
- Coated with baking soda
- Eliminates odors from the air
- Ideal for dust, pollen, and mold spores
- Lasts up to 90 days
- Fast and easy installation and removal
- In rare cases, the baking soda may be too thick
- In some instances, the baking soda may come off, creating dust in your system
5. HVAC Premium 24" X 14 Steel Return Air Filter Grille
While the filter you use in your air conditioning system is crucial to its success, that’s not the only component you have to consider when trying to improve the overall quality of your heating and cooling. You should also pay attention to the air filter grills that act as the first line of defense for your system.
This grill from HVAC Premium is a perfect example of what you should have in your home. It’s made of high-quality steel, and it comes with a powder-coated finish to help ensure that you can use it for years to come.
One thing we like about this grill is that it has a latch mechanism. This means that after you install it, it’s easy to open and close so that you can replace your air filters more efficiently. Also, there are no sharp edges on this model, so you don’t have to worry about any safety hazards either. Installation of this grill is a breeze, and it will add some elegance to your home. You can choose between a white or black finish, which ensures that you’ll have the right option for your needs.
- Rugged steel construction
- Available in white or black
- No sharp edges for safety
- Latch requires no screwdriver to open and close
- Powder-coated finish for durability
- Scratch-resistant material lasts longer
- In rare cases, the lock tabs may become loose over time
- In some instances, this grill may create noise in high-powered systems
How to Choose the Best AC Filters
As we mentioned above, the most crucial aspect of any filter is how thoroughly it can scrub the air clean. The standard unit of measuring this is the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV), which is a ranking system that goes from 4-20. Overall, the higher the number is, the better the filter is at trapping particles. However, there is a bit of a trade-off that happens when you go with a higher MERV.
When considering how your a/c system works, you have to pay attention to two things - air flow and air quality. When you pick a higher MERV rating, the quality of your air goes up because more particles like dust, mold, and smoke are filtered out. However, because the material has to be thicker to trap smaller items. It won’t allow as much air to flow through.
Thus, if you have a high-powered system, you may experience problems if you get a MERV rating that is too high. In the end, you want to pick a number that is sufficient for your needs without impacting the overall performance of your air conditioning.
MPR rating is another way of measuring your air filter. This is only for 3M products, so you won’t have to worry about it if you buy other brands. The same principle applies, however, meaning that a higher number indicates better air quality.
Pleated vs. Flat
When you look at most modern a/c filters, you’ll notice that they have pleats in them. However, not all of them do, and some will be completely flat. But what’s the difference? Also, does having more pleats mean anything?
The purpose of these pleats is to increase the overall surface area of the filter. The more surface it has, the better it will work when trapping particles from the air. Also, it will increase the overall lifespan of the filter because it won’t get dirty as quickly.
Thus, if you buy a model with more pleats than others, they should last a little longer than them. However, too many pleats can impact the flow of air through your system, so you should make sure that you’re getting one that’s rated for the type of air conditioning you have.
Another standard feature of a/c filters is the fact that they are electrostatically charged. Almost all new screens are treated this way, which helps trap dirt and other particles like a magnet. Small particles like dust, hair, lint, mold, and other elements can stick to your filter much more easily when it’s been charged beforehand. The best thing about this too is that the charge will stay in the material for the life of the filter, meaning that you don’t lose the benefit over time.
While the MERV rating is probably the most crucial element of any a/c filter, you also have to make sure that it’s the right size. If you have an improperly sized filter, that can impact the overall performance of your system.
If the filter is too small, air will flow around it, which can reduce the quality because particles can flow through uninterrupted. If the screen is too big, though, then it can be a pain to try and get it into the slot, which means that you have to either force it in (and damage the filter) or cut it down to size. In either case, you’re reducing the overall integrity of the unit.
When picking out the best a/c filter, you want to use your old one as a guide. Look at the size of it and choose one that is identical. This will make it easier to know which dimensions are right for your needs.
How to Clean an A/C Filter
For the most part, these filters are designed to be disposable. However, if you do get a durable model that can be cleaned, you want to take advantage of that feature so you can save time and money on finding replacements. Cleaning your a/c filter will help extend the life of the unit and ensure you get the most value for your investment.
Before you even think about cleaning the filter, you should pay attention to the material of which it’s made. This will tell you how vigorously you can wash it. Usually, a/c filters are not that durable, so you don’t want to get them soaking wet.
The best thing to do is to take a wet towel and wipe down each pleat individually. This will help ensure that you don’t miss a spot, and it will ensure that you don’t damage the filter in the process.
If your material is more delicate, then avoid using water and simply wipe the surface with a dry towel. Be sure to clean the sheet between wipes (or switch to a clean section) so that you aren’t transferring dirt and dust from one part to the other.
One thing to keep in mind about this process is that your filter won’t be as efficient as it was when it was brand new. Overall, cleaning your a/c filter is designed to help extend the life of it, not act as a replacement. Usually, you can only wash it a couple of times before you have to install a new one to get the same results.
Why Changing Your Filter is Essential
When you pull out your old a/c filter, you’ll notice that it’s covered in dirt and dust. In some cases, it may even be black, depending on if you have smoke going through your system (i.e., a fireplace or burning candles).
As you can imagine, having so much dirt on your filter can impact its capability of cleaning your air. As the surface becomes clogged, it will inhibit the airflow of your air conditioner, and it will also stop working to remove dust and other particles from the air.
When this happens, your air conditioner has to work harder. This can drive up your utility costs and make it more expensive to run the system. In extreme cases, the filter may be so clogged that it causes your a/c to overheat and shut down because air can’t get through at all.
Thus, if you want to maintain efficiency and cut down on costs, you should replace your filter regularly.
Best A/C Filter Buyer’s Guide
Although we’ve covered a lot of different elements regarding the top a/c filters, we know that you’ll still have a few questions. Thus, we wanted to provide some additional insight into these devices so that you can be sure you’re making the right decision for your home.
Are higher MERV ratings always better?
Not always. When you get a higher MERV rating, that can impact the flow of air through the system. If you have a high-performance air conditioner, this can create problems for you. The system will have to work harder to push air through, which can add wear and tear to the different components inside. Thus, you will want to choose a lower MERV rating to ensure that you don’t damage your air conditioner.
Can I clean and reuse my a/c filter?
In most cases, these filters are designed for one-time use. The reason for this is that the material is not durable enough to withstand cleaning, especially if it’s been trapping dust and dirt for three months.
Cleaning your filter, however, can be a good idea to ensure that your system is working efficiently at all times. Pulling it out and wiping off excess dirt and lint can improve the overall performance, ensuring that you’re not overworking your air conditioner. If you do it often (i.e., weekly or bi-weekly), you can extend the life of your filter by another month or so.
How long is an a/c filter supposed to last?
According to most experts, these filters are rated to last about three months. However, depending on your system and the air quality coming into the a/c, it could be as little as 30 days before you have to replace the filter.
Do I need to change my a/c filter?
Yes, you need to change it regularly to keep your a/c working properly.
Should I buy a commercial a/c filter for my system?
No. You should only buy filters that are meant for your air conditioner. Getting units that are designed for higher-end systems can impact the performance of your a/c and may add unnecessary wear and tear.
Who Needs an A/C Filter?
For the most part, if you have central heating and cooling, you have to use air filters to keep your indoor air quality as good as possible. While you can increase the airflow by having zero obstructions, doing so can allow mold to embed itself into your house, which can pose all kinds of health problems.
While air filters are ideal for those who suffer from allergies or asthma, the fact is that better air quality benefits everyone.
We’ve seen some high-quality a/c filters on this list, but we have to say that our top pick has to be the FilterBuy model. We like that those filters are made of higher-quality materials that are designed to hold up to higher temperatures and humidity. We also appreciate that they have more pleats, which helps extend the life of your system. Overall, no matter what kind of the best ac filters you have in your home, these filters will help it work properly.