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When is the last time you changed your furnace filter? Here are your 5 best options…

You do know you are supposed to change your furnace filter don't you? Let me back up a step. You do know your furnace has a filter that needs regular maintenance, right?


Never fear - you are not alone. That's why 5 Things presents the 5 levels of furnace filters from worst to best…

1 - Disposable fiberglass filters. The cheapest are the least effective - shocker! These are designed to protect your furnace, and that's about it. These are the $3 jobs available in all hardware stores and now even in some supermarkets. You may laugh, but these, when changed monthly, are far better than nothing.

It's kinda ironic, but as these filters get clogged with gunk over time, they actually become more efficient, until they aren't. When they become too clogged, they will shut down your entire system. Good news though - if your system shuts down on its own often changing the filter will solve the problem.

2 - Washable 'electrostatic' filters. These have a static charge that attracts dust and other matter. Slightly more effective than fiberglass filters, they still only get 15 to 20 percent of airborne yuck. You don't hear as much about these any more, but these are the ones you can 'put in your dishwasher and clean monthly'.

3 - Pleated 'allergy' filters. The pleats increase the surface area which helps catch most large allergens like pollen and mold. Most catch 35-50 percent of yuck. Often times these pleated filters are referred to as 'media filters', which has nothing to do with radio, tv, or the internet.

For me, these are the lowest level of filter you should have. Solid choice.

4 - Electronic air cleaners. These use electrodes to create an ionized electrical field that, to make a long story full of scientific words short, trap up to 94% of smaller particles and even up to 80 percent of airborne viruses. This is probably the best you are going to do for your house.

5 - HEPA furnace filters. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air filter. These are the mac-daddies and not only block air particles, but also air flow and that's why they really aren't recommended for residential use. Hospitals, research facilities, and some manufacturing plants where clean air is vital is where you find the HEPA's.