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The Best AC Filters

🕚 Updated March 2022

High-quality AC filters protect your family from airborne pollutants and help keep your HVAC system running smoothly. However, not every AC filter is a winner. We made this guide to showcase the best AC filters for your home.

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  Best AC Filter Best Value Best Premium Best Compatibility Best Design
Healthy Living AC Filters
Clean Living AC Filters
Nordic Pure
Pleated Plus Carbon AC Filters
MERV 8 Pleated Air Filter
MERV 13 AC Filters
Our SummaryThese MERV 13 AC filters offer excellent filtration from a trusted brand.This budget-friendly AC filter six-pack will provide over a year of air filtration for most.These rugged AC filters stand out for their longevity and next-level air filtration.These affordable AC filters are available in a wide array of sizes, including many options that are nearly impossible to find in stores.These affordable MERV 13 filters stand out due to their low price and rugged design.
ProsGreat size selection, excellent for pet owners, improves your home's smell, trusted brand.Budget-friendly price, over a year's worth of filters, impede minimal airflow, great for areas with clean air.Clean-smelling air, great for high-efficiency HVAC systems, high MERV rating, prevents bacteria and mold growth.Massive size selection, great price, limits dust and pollen, great for those who don't have pets.Great price, sturdy design, hospital-grade filtration, highly-rated product.
ConsFairly expensive.Not ideal for pet owners.Not for low-efficiency HVAC systems.Questionable sturdiness.Mediocre odor reduction.
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The Best AC Filters

Person installing AC filter into residential HVAC system

AC filters represent one of the most important purchasing decisions you’ll make regarding the quality of your home’s air. However, you will want to choose a filter with an appropriate size and filtration level to meet your needs. For this reason, it’s vital to do your research before selecting the best AC filter for you.

Buying Guide for AC Filters

Woman installing AC filter into home HVAC vent

Why buy an AC filter?

Investing in quality AC filters will limit the amount of dust and pet dander traveling through the air in your HVAC system and in your home. This helps your HVAC system perform its duties while improving the air you breathe every day. However, AC filters need to be replaced frequently (around every three months) for optimal performance. For this reason, it’s good to have an extra AC filter or two available in your home for when you need them the most.

What should you look for in AC filters?

  • Compatibility: When it comes to AC filters, size definitely matters. If you’re unsure what size AC filter works for your HVAC system, be sure to measure your current filter so that you can find a suitable replacement. Remember, measurements should account for an air filter’s length, width, and depth. If you have a new, high-efficiency HVAC system, your AC filter options will be numerous since these will often allow you to use heavy-duty filters, including HEPA filters.
  • Filtration Level: To ensure an AC filter will meet your needs, take close note of its Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). A filter’s MERV rating indicates how well it filters out large and small particles. Homes with pets and households located in areas with highly polluted air can significantly benefit from using AC filters with a high MERV rating. However, some HVAC systems aren’t built to accommodate a high level of air filtration, so consult an HVAC specialist if you’re unsure what type of AC filter is ideal for your system.
  • Filter Type: There are a variety of different types of AC filters on the market today. Fiberglass filters are often the most budget-friendly and energy-efficient options, but they usually have a lower MERV rating than other filter types. Pleated filters, on the other hand, will typically cost more than fiberglass filters but can capture more small and large particles. Finally, HEPA filters have the highest MERV ratings and are great for those with health conditions that require exceptionally clean air. However, these tend to be pricey and can only be utilized if your HVAC system can handle the restricted airflow they cause.

How do you know what MERV rating is right for you?

Determining an appropriate MERV rating for your needs is not always easy. However, there are some guidelines that will help you find the best option for you. If you own pets, finding an AC filter with a MERV rating of over 9 is a good idea since this will greatly reduce the amount of pet dander in the air. If you have a compromised immune system and wish to block out as many bacteria and virus particulates as possible, look for a MERV rating above 13. That being said, if the air tends to be clean where you live and you aren’t bothered by allergies or pet dander, an AC filter with a lower MERV rating can still offer plenty of value.

Our Picks for the Best AC Filters

Best AC Filter

Filtrete Healthy Living AC Filters

These MERV 13 AC filters offer excellent filtration from a trusted brand.

Pros: Featuring a huge size selection and impressive MERV 13 rating, the Filtrete Healthy Living AC Filters are a great choice for those who are constantly picking pet hair out of their handheld vacuum cleaners. These AC filters score top marks in terms of air filtration and even filter out virus and bacteria particles as well as larger particulates. In fact, many have noted how these AC filters provided a near-instant upgrade to their home’s odor.

Cons: Like many MERV 13 AC filters, these will be a fairly expensive option for most. That being the case, those who are not bothered by pet dander or highly-polluted outside air may justifiably gravitate toward a more budget-friendly filter to meet their needs.

Bottom Line: While these are far from the most budget-friendly AC filter on the market, most people will be able to clearly tell the difference between these and lower quality filters in terms of their home’s air quality. That being said, these are not a great fit for every HVAC system since their high degree of filtration restricts a lot of airflow.


Best Value

Filtrete Clean Living AC Filters

This budget-friendly AC filter six-pack will provide over a year of air filtration for most.

Pros: These budget-friendly AC filters are an excellent option for those with touchy HVAC systems that don’t allow for too much restriction of airflow. While these are great at attracting larger particles and keeping your HVAC system clean, they’re primarily useful for those who live in areas with relatively clean air due to their lower level of filtration.

Cons: Since these filters won’t capture too much pet dander or smaller pollutants, they are probably not a great choice for pet owners or those who suffer from allergies. That being said, their filtration level is well on par with most similarly priced low-MERV AC filters.

Bottom Line: Most people will get over a year of use out of this AC filter six-pack, making this an incredible value for many. That being said, don’t expect these filters to have a profound impact on your home’s air quality. However, if you are seeking inexpensive AC filters to pair with a high-quality air purifier, these may be your best bet.


Best Premium

Nordic Pure Pleated Plus Carbon AC Filters

These rugged AC filters stand out for their longevity and next-level air filtration.

Pros: If you value seriously clean air in your home, the Nordic Pure Pleated Plus Carbon AC Filters are a powerful choice. These AC filters are made for high-efficiency HVAC systems that can handle a high rate of air filtration. As such, they block more pollutants than a vast majority of competitors and even prevent bacteria and mold growth. These filters will also likely improve your home’s smell, especially when compared to low-MERV alternative filters.

Cons: First off, many people will not be able to use these filters, especially if they have older, low-efficiency HVAC systems. Also, while these will last nearly twice as long as most other AC filters due to their rugged design, it’s important to note that they are still an expensive option that will exceed the needs of many families.

Bottom Line: If you suffer from allergies and have an HVAC system that is up to the task, these heavy-duty AC filters can really improve your quality of life and minimize your time spent sneezing and feeling awful in your home. However, these premium AC filters are probably unnecessary for those with basic air filtration needs who are watching their budget.


Best Compatibility

Aerostar MERV 8 Pleated Air Filter

These affordable AC filters are available in a wide array of sizes, including many options that are nearly impossible to find in stores.

Pros: If your HVAC system requires AC filters in oddball sizes that your local stores don’t carry, these Aerostar MERV 8 Pleated Air Filters may just have you covered. Not only do these AC filters boast a massive selection of sizes, but they are also available at a budget-friendly price and do well to limit the amount of dust and pollen in your home’s air. Additionally, these AC filters are compatible with a wide range of HVAC systems since they don’t restrict airflow as much as many top alternatives.

Cons: Some reviewers have raised concerns over the sturdiness of these AC filters, noting that they are a bit flimsier than previous builds. That being the case, it would be wise to be extremely careful when installing these filters so that you don’t cause any damage in the process.

Bottom Line: While most people may not fret about finding AC filters that are compatible with their HVAC system, others have an incredibly difficult time at it. Thankfully, these filters sport design and size offerings that will make it easy for most to find the perfect product for their needs. However, those seeking a heavy-duty option that will massively improve their air quality will likely need to seek out a product with a higher MERV rating.


Best Design

Filterbuy MERV 13 AC Filters

These affordable MERV 13 filters stand out due to their low price and rugged design.

Pros: If you’re looking for budget-friendly MERV 13 AC filters, these filters from Filterbuy are an excellent choice. These highly-rated AC filters stand out for their sturdy construction and resist bending or buckling under force. They also offer hospital-quality filtration at the lowest price, capturing bacteria, mold spores, and pet dander along with larger particles that threaten to damage your HVAC system.

Cons: While these AC filters offer excellent filtration for their price point, they lag behind top-rated products such as our top pick in terms of odor reduction and overall filtration. That being said, you are unlikely to find a better MERV 13 filter at this product’s price point, no matter how hard you look.

Bottom Line: While these may not be top performers in the world of MERV 13 AC filters, it’s important to note that they are a fraction of the price of similar products and perform their function admirably. As such, those who suffer from allergies and would benefit from cleaner air will find that these filters are a respectable substitute to Filtrete’s next-level MERV 13 filter.

Final Thoughts

Investing in new AC filters can potentially provide you with an instant upgrade to your home’s air quality. However, if you fail to research the product and understand your HVAC system’s limitations, your new AC filters can end up being a costly mistake. Before purchasing your new AC filters, take the time to closely consider your air quality needs and determine which type of filters are the best fit for your HVAC system.

Britta Kallevang Britta Kallevang
Britta is a professional writing tutor and freelance writer that is trained in journalistic, technical, and creative copywriting. At LifeSavvy, she researches products, writes about the items, and shares what she's uncovered with readers. Her writing is comprehensive and sometimes a bit silly. Read Full Bio »
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