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Dowd Mechanical Heating & Air Conditioning Blog

The Difference Between a Whole-Home Air Filter and an HVAC Air Filter

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If you looked at the title of this post and thought, “Wait, aren’t those the same thing?”, then we recommend you read further. Homeowners are often confused about their options when it comes to getting air filters and air purifiers to improve their household indoor air quality. It often starts with mistaking the job of the standard filter that’s part of the HVAC system—also called the “furnace filter” or “AC filter” (one filter usually does both jobs.)

There’s an important difference between what we call a whole-home air filter and the filter located on the HVAC cabinet or behind the return air duct in the house. 

The Job of the HVAC Filter

Let’s make sure we’re talking about the same filter: this is the filter that sits in a slot on the indoor cabinet of your HVAC system, usually located between where the return air duct connects with the blower assembly. In some homes, this filter isn’t on the cabinet but is found behind the cover of the indoor air duct. This is the filter you need to change out every 1 to 3 months on average—a job we hope you keep up with because a clogged filter will cause a series of problems for the HVAC system in terms of performance and efficiency.

This filter does an important job: it protects the interior of the HVAC cabinet and its components from the dust and other debris that comes through the return air ducts. But it does not have a major effect on the quality of the air in the house. In fact, it can end up harming indoor air quality if the filter isn’t regularly changed for a clean one. A heavily clogged filter will start to bend under the air pressure from the blower fan, allowing debris to escape around it. The filter can also develop mold and mildew if left in place, sending unpleasant odors into the air. 

The Job of a Whole-House Air Filter

This is the type of filter designed specifically to clean the air in the house. These are usually media filters that can trap numerous smaller pollutants from passing through the supply ducts. They don’t come standard with HVAC systems, and because of the size of the slot necessary to hold the filters (most use filters from 4” to 6”), the filtration system needs to be plumbed into the ductwork. Only professionals should handle this installation job. Professionals are also necessary to find the right strength of air filter, since a filter that is too strong will restrict airflow through the ventilation system, harming both comfort and the HVAC system. 

We’ll Help With Your Air Filtration Needs

If you only have an HVAC filter in your house and want better air quality, reach out to our team to ask about air filtration in Bensalem, PA. We provide several indoor air quality services, such as the installation of air purification systems, whole-house dehumidifiers, and humidifiers. 

Dowd Mechanical Heating & Air Conditioning: A Degree Above the Rest. Call us today for indoor air quality services.

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