Washable air filters are a great option for people looking to save money, but they come with some serious drawbacks. Filter manufacturers rate air filter effectiveness using a scale called the MERV rating table, which represents the minimum value of efficiency reports. Generally, washable filters fall very low on the scale, with MERV ratings between 1 and 4.This means they are not very effective at capturing microscopic particles that tend to lower your home's indoor air quality. The only major advantage over disposable filters is that they can be washed and reinstalled as often as desired, which can help reduce the amount of mold and mildew growth on the filter itself.
In theory, an air filter that is simply rinsed and put back in the oven can save you time and money. However, this type of filter is only capable of removing large particles from the air in your home. Because this type of filter includes a maximum MERV rating of 4, it cannot remove pet dander or smoke from the air. If your spouse or children have allergies or asthma, a washable air filter isn't the right choice for your home.
On the other hand, there are other air conditioning professionals who say that air filter quality is largely a myth. The real job of air conditioning filters, these experts say, is to protect the life of your HVAC system, not improve air quality. Whole house filters, air filters, and oven filters are designed to capture debris found in most homes, but no matter how clean your washable filter may seem, there is no guarantee that it will be completely free of debris. Washable air filters can last five to 10 years or longer, and some manufacturers claim that washable filters can outlive your HVAC system.
This is why some people who use washable filters have a second filter on hand to insert immediately while the other is being cleaned and dried. With electrostatic filters, air passing through the filter passes through multiple layers of filter media, usually woven polypropylene, that have an electrostatic charge. By comparing washable air filters to disposable filters, a disposable filter can remove the smallest contaminants from the air in your home. Lower-efficiency air filters can filter larger dust and soot particles, but not the smallest particles. Also, while reusable filters are good at protecting your home from large particles, such as dust, they are sometimes not as effective at filtering bacteria, viruses, smoke, and pet dander. Unless you have a washable filter, you should never wash or vacuum a disposable air filter.
Washing and vacuuming a disposable filter can also damage the material or bend the frame, rendering the filter ineffective and putting your HVAC system at risk. If you're worried that you'll forget to replace a fiberglass air filter every month, a pleated disposable air filter may be a better option. Questions like these are the reason why washable air filters exist. In fact, these greener filters not only improve the footprint of the landfill but they are also more sustainable and reduce household costs. See the advantages and disadvantages of washable HVAC filters and how they compare to disposable filters to decide if this product is right for your home.