When It Comes To Reusable Furnace Filters, Shop For Efficiency And Quality

by Nicola Temple on February 13, 2012

If you feel like you’re replacing your furnace filter constantly, you might want to consider looking into reusable furnace filters.

The cost might seem a little steep initially, but over the long term reusable furnace filters are more economical and better for the environment.

A top of the line permanent filter may cost you as much as $70 but it comes with a lifetime warranty, so in theory it could be the last furnace filter you ever buy. Disposable filters cost on average about $10 each and need to be replaced every 1 to 3 months.

Simple math shows you that a good quality reusable filter will pay for itself in no time at all.

The importance of an air filter for your furnace

There are two main functions of the furnace filter. Firstly, the filter stops particulate matter from entering your furnace and wreaking havoc. It helps the furnace run as efficiently as possible and reduces wear and tear on the furnace itself. Here’s a great demonstration of how a dirty filter affects furnace function:

Secondly, the filter helps to improve indoor air quality by removing airborne particulates such as dust, animal dander and pollen.

Comparison shopping for reusable furnace filters

The main thing you will be looking at when comparing filters is efficiency. Furnace filters are given a MERV rating between 1 and 16, which stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It’s a measure of how much particulate matter it can eliminate without reducing the air flow; the higher the MERV rating, the more efficient the filter. A high efficiency filter will have a MERV rating of between 9 and 12.

There are a number of different types of reusable furnace filters on the market, but perhaps the most common one for domestic systems is an electrostatic filter. These filters can be up to ten times more efficient than standard disposable filters.

The filters are electrostatically charged, which attracts particulate matter to the filter, thereby removing a very high percentage of air contaminants without affecting air flow.

reusable furnace filters

Reusable furnace filters, such as this model from Boair, can simply be rinsed clean and reused rather than thrown into a land fill.

One brand to look out for is the Boair Electrostatic Washable Furnace Filter. It’s made with a heavy duty aluminum frame and comes with a lifetime warranty. It’s also the only filter embedded with VIBAX MI-50, an anti-microbial agent that helps prevent the growth of mold and mildew. They claim to capture over 90% of dust particles.

A much cheaper brand of electrostatic air filter is American Air Filter, which claims to eliminate 95% of particulate matter. These filters are treated with an EPA Registered antimicrobial to discourage mold and mildew growth. They don’t come with a lifetime warranty, but they are quite a bit cheaper than the Boair filter.

A variation on the electrostatic filter is one that uses a synthetic filtering medium. Superflow Blue claims to be 90% efficient and unlike electrostatic filter, it doesn’t lose efficiency over time. You just need to vacuum clean or rinse with water.

Maintenance of your reusable furnace filter

Most reusable filters can be washed or vacuumed clean. The frequency with which you do this depends on the amount of particulate matter in your home. If you have pets or live in a dusty area, you will likely have to clean the filter more frequently. It is recommended that you clean your filter once a month.

If you are washing the filter clean, be sure to spray it in the opposite direction of the air flow as you want to rinse the dirt off the filter rather than sink it deeper into the filter. Let the filter air dry in the sun until it is no longer dripping before re-installing it.

Before you head out shopping for reusable furnace filters, make sure you know the dimensions of the filter frame so that you can be sure to get the right size. Beyond that, I would worry less about brand and more about MERV rating as well as quality. Products with lifetime warranties are a good indication of quality. A good reusable filter will help improve the air quality of your home and possibly extend the life of your furnace…all without adding to landfills.

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