Are Washable Air Filters Good For My HVAC System?

Are reusable air filters a good choice for me?

Most of us aren’t really experts on the best type of filters for our homes, families, and lifestyles. When it comes to deciding on the type of air filter to use in your home, one factor tends to play the largest role in decision making: cost. Rightfully so, everyone wants to save money wherever possible. When individuals are looking for ways to save on home maintenance, they are usually excited to hear about washable air filters, and we totally get that. Although the concept is great and cost is relatively low, that doesn't mean washable filters are the best option for your home.

One positive washable filters have over pleated filters is they don't have to be replaced as often. You simply vacuum and rinse. They cost between 50 and 60 dollars--what you could easily spend on traditional filters in just a few months. This consideration alone is enough to convince many homeowners that washable filters are the way to go. Although the low price is very appealing, they still need to be replaced around every 10 years. There are other incredibly important factors that surely outweigh the cost benefits.

How do washable filters work?

Washable filters are composed of multiple layers of vented metal. As air molecules pass through the first layer, they become positively charged by the friction of the air on the metal. Dust and other pollutants then attach to the other layers as they pass through the filter toward your system.

2 good reasons why washable filters are a bad choice:

  1. Washable filters rely on static electricity to operate and they can only filter out so much debris. Static electricity works well to filter out the smaller, lighter particles but when it comes to larger particles or mold spores, an electrostatic filter will not be as efficient as a MERV 11 filter. If someone in the house suffers from asthma or allergies it is better to opt for a high-filtration, replaceable filter rated at MERV 13.
  2. After dust and other particles initially pass through the first layer of the filter, not all of them are caught by the other layers. But the escaping particles still remain positively charged and can stick to components in your a/c system or the walls of your duct work promoting mold growth.
  3. Think that cleaning a washable filter is as simple as a quick vacuum and rinse in the backyard? This isn’t exactly the case. To properly clean the filter, it must be disassembled and each layer must be cleaned separately. More work than one might presume when purchasing the filter. Also, despite following the correct disassembly procedure, it may not always be cleaned properly, leaving your filter dirty even when you think it's clean.

Improper filtration can lead to high repair costs or system failure! Pleated air filters can achieve more efficient filtration, while putting less strain on your system. You'll rest, and breathe, easy knowing that your air is actually clean and that you aren't slowly killing your HVAC system.

Alec Lower

Content Writer

Alec is a third-year member of the team at Second Nature. He brings expert knowledge of a myriad of home air filtration topics including HVAC filters, filtration efficiency, and indoor air quality.