One of the top recommended maintenance requirements from HVAC technicians to extend the life of your furnace and HVAC systems, improve the indoor air quality, and maintain efficiency of your system lies in regularly changing your air filters. For homeowners and individuals with a green approach, tossing air filters in the garbage every couple of months may be an ongoing struggle. For the more environmentally conscious, you’re in luck! An alternative to disposable filters is available: washable air filters. Washable air filters are a much “greener” choice than those disposable ones that end up in the landfill. Plus, the savings in the long-term are huge. Of course with the good, there is also the bad. Each type of filter, washable and disposable, has its advantages. Washable air filters may have just a few more disadvantages, however. Let’s compare some differences between the two types of air filters.

The Good: Washable Air Filters

Big Savings – The initial price of washable air filters is high compared to disposable filters, but take into account 5+ years of use and you can see the long term savings is hue. Washable air filters typically go for between $50 – $80, depending on their MERV rating. When properly cared for, washable air filters can last many years. It’s advised that homeowners change their filters at a minimum every three months. When you do the math, you can quickly see the savings in the hundreds of dollars over the full life of the washable air filters. One washable filter can typically replace around 50 disposable air filters. That HUGE savings adds up within the first 18 months.

Convenience – Installing washable air filters for your HVAC and furnace means no more random trips to the hardware store or forgetting to stock up on your disposable filters each year. For those people who may not have extra storage space, this also works out in their favor. Convenience is key, and with washable air filters, the convenience of not having to buy filters is definitely a great advantage!

Going Green – Disposable filters are composed of metal, fiberglass and cardboard. Fiberglass isn’t biodegradable and typically, people aren’t separating out the metal and cardboard from the rest of the filter for recycling. This process would be time consuming. Usually, all that trash just ends up at the landfill. Imagine the amount of garbage that’s created from the millions of homes across America who are just trying to make sure their HVAC unit’s filter is clean. Then, imagine a world where everyone uses disposable filters. The effect on our planet’s landfills could be huge! In short, going green with disposable air filters is a big plus in your efforts to “GO GREEN.”

With the good side of washable air filters behind us, it’s now time to point out the bad aspects.

The Bad: Why everyone doesn’t use washable air filters

Maintenance and Time – With your standard disposable filter, a quick change is standard fare. Usually, just remove the old filter and pop in a new one. It’s that simple. This, however, all changes with washable filters because you have to WASH THEM! This is by far the biggest drawback to washable air filters.

Steps involved:

  • Remove washable filter
  • Spray it down to clear particulate matter away
  • Let it dry
  • Replace filter

Once you’ve removed the filter from your air intake to begin the cleaning process, you must be sure your unit system is set to the OFF position. If it’s left on without the filter, damage can occur.

Cleaning the filter only takes a few minutes, but drying can take many hours. Never replace the washable filter until it is completely dry. Doing so can create other problems we’ll address below.

Lowered Air Quality – Washable air filters aren’t typically available with a high MERV rating The MERV ranks the trapping power of your air filter. The higher the rating, the smaller the particle it can stop from entering your home’s air. Washable filters are readily available around MERV 6 while disposable filters are available up to MERV 16. This can be a huge drawback for people who are working to improve their air quality.

Mildew & Mold – As we addressed earlier in the maintenance section, if you don’t properly let the filter completely dry, you’ll have a whole other problem on your hands. That problem comes in the form of mold and mildew due to the reinstalling a damp filter. This can absolutely wreak havoc on your indoor air quality, which totally defeats the purpose of having a filter in the first place! Be sure when using a washable filter that it is completely dry before reinstalling.

After reading this article, you may say to your self that the benefits of washable air filters compared to the drawbacks are worth ditching the old disposable filters. Before you make any customized changes to your filtration, it is always recommended that you consult a professional HVAC technician to be sure no damage will occur with the use of a specialized washable air filter. The professionals at Hometown Comfort are happy to answer any questions for you and even come out to perform an inspection to make sure your system can reasonably handle a washable air filter. Give us a call or send us a message below with any questions you may have. We look forward to speaking with you!

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