What Are the 4 Main Types of HVAC Filters?

Riverview Pool and Electrical Contractors Serving Tampa

Many HVAC air filters with varying degrees of filtration are available today. Some filters are only designed to trap dust, fibers, pet hair, and other large debris that could settle on and damage delicate system components. Others actively improve indoor air quality, though maintaining adequate airflow is always a concern. Learn about the four main types of HVAC filters to help you decide which one is right for your Tampa-area home.

Flat-Paneled Fiberglass HVAC Filters

Spun fiberglass filters are the most basic variety, offering a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) of 1 to 4. This means they can trap about 80 percent of airborne particles measuring 50 microns or larger and 25 percent of particles down to 3 microns.

Fiberglass air filters allow for maximum airflow, but they don’t improve indoor air quality. This option may be suitable for you if you don’t have pets, allergies, or chronic respiratory conditions.

Pleated Media Filters

These mid-range filters are typically rated MERV 5 to 8, meaning they can trap most airborne pollen, pet dander, and dust mites down to 5 microns. This type of HVAC filter is widely used because it offers the ideal balance between improved indoor air quality and sustained airflow. A pleated HVAC filter may be right for you if you have pets or mild allergies. You know you have a pleated media filter if the surface has a raised, V-shaped pattern.

Electrostatic HVAC Filters

Ranging from MERV 2 to 10, electrostatic filters feature self-charging fibers that attract airborne particles without increasing the weave tightness. This allows air to pass through efficiently while removing more particles for cleaner indoor air.

Unlike other types of filters, electrostatic filters come in washable varieties. The upfront cost is higher, but the ability to reuse them makes washable filters more cost-effective and less wasteful. Electrostatic HVAC filters may be suitable if you want better filtration with ample airflow. Just remember to check the MERV rating—after all, being labeled “electrostatic” doesn’t guarantee a more efficient filter.


High-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filters are the most efficient type available. At MERV 17 to 20, these impressive filters trap 95 to 99.97 percent of mold, fine dust, asbestos, bacteria, and viruses down to 0.3 microns.

The problem is HEPA filters drastically reduce airflow, requiring system modifications to ensure compatibility and prevent the blower from overheating due to a lack of airflow. You should only consider this level of HVAC filtration if someone in your household has severe allergies, asthma, or a chronic respiratory condition.

With so many HVAC filters to consider, you may still be unsure of which type to use. Hawkins Service Company can help you make the right decision. We are a fully licensed HVAC, electric, pool, plumbing, and gas contractor with hundreds of years of combined experience. We’re proud to serve as your one-stop shop for most residential home service needs. Call us at 813-488-0939 or contact us online with any additional questions you have about HVAC air filters.