Aprilaire furnace filters
Breathe easily, maintain effortlessly
I'm a big fan of Aprilaire furnace filters. We installed a new 90% efficient Bryant furnace in our home in 1997, and our installer talked us into getting an Aprilaire filter. It wasn't upsell - it was common sense. Yes, there was a significant added cost up front, but the improved air filtering and the reduced maintenace hassle definitely made it worthwhile.
The standard 1" filters and filter assembly most installers recommend are quite a bit cheaper up front, but don't do nearly as good a job at removing dust particles, and you have to change the filter every month - so you save money up front but pay over and over. And you have the inconvenience of having to change the filter every month - 4-12 times a year, depending on the length of your heating and cooling season. All I have to do is press the "Filter" button once a month on my programmable thermostat, to cancel my monthly reminder, since the thermostat still thinks I need to change the filter once a month, and I don't really even need to do that. As for the actual filter change, the Aprilaire furnace filter gets changed by the original installer as part of my annual service contract - but only if the filter needs it. We had a Brittany Spaniel the first few years we owned the house, and such dogs shed a lot, so in those days the filter got changed every year. But now our Golden Doodle doesn't shed at all, and the filter tends to last two or even three years.
Let's look at what makes Aprilaire furnace filters a better solution than either a typical 1" furnace filter, or other high-tech furnace filter solutions.
Comprehensive air quality solution: Aprilaire furnace filters provide a complete filtering system. Whereas typical 1" furnace filters are quite inexpensive, they only remove larger particles, allowing smaller particles back out into your ductwork, and the filters tend to clog up quickly because of the small surface area of the mesh. Aprilaire furnace filters do an excellent job of removing all sizes of dust and particulate from your air. Some Aprilaire filters such as such as the 213/313/413 furnace filters and the Aprilaire 5000, can actually remove bacteria and up to 75% of virus size particles.
Anyone suffering from allergies caused by dust, dustmites, mold, spores, pollen, and other small allergenic particles, or anyone with other breathing problems, can benefit from the superior air filtering capabilities of Aprilaire furnace filters. My wife used to get frequent sinus infections. Our Aprilaire furnace filter has helped make her less susceptible to these infections during the heating season, when our air is filtered whenever the furnace is running.
Less wear on your furnace and air conditioner: The finer dust particle control of Aprilaire filters means less dust getting onto the heat exchanger of your forced air furnace, or the coils of your air conditioner. This allows your HVAC system to operate at higher efficiency, and increases the life of the unit. In fact, Aprilaire filters are so good at keeping dust away from your A/C coils, that many current AprilAire filters that are professionally installed, come with a guarantee: if you need to have your central air conditioner coils cleaned within ten years of the filter installation, Aprilaire will cover $100 toward the cost of having the filters cleaned.
No more monthly filter changes: People tend to forget to change their furnace filter on a monthly basis. This has a number of negative impacts: it means more work for the furnace fan, as more effort is expended to push the heated or cooled air through a more clogged up furnace filter; slower air flow for the same expended fan energy, resulting in higher energy costs and poorer air circulation. Of course all you really need to do is add a monthly reminder to your calendar to change the filter; or you can buy a $2 part such as the one shown at right, to give you a loud signal when the filter needs changing. This device whistles when air passes through it, but because a new 1" furnace filter lets air through its mesh, the device is silent at first. As the furnace filter clogs up, airflow is impeded through the mesh, forcing it through the whistle, which reminds you to change the filter. It is worth noting that 1" filters get clogged enough to set a whistle blowing - and that this whistle is not intended for Aprilaire furnace filters!
Aprilaire filter media
How do Aprilaire filters last so long? Part of it is in their innovative fanfold filter media. A typical 16x16 inch furnace filter has 1.8 square feet of surface area against which particles can be trapped. An Aprilaire filter consists of a fine mesh paper type fabric that is fanfolded within a much thicker media enclosure. I measured my own AprilAire filter media (for a model 2400 filter system) and found it consists of about 30 fanfolds of media, each 24" wide and 7" deep. Since each fanfold is actually two sheets that means 30 x 2 x 7" x 24", which works out to 70 square feet - which is almost 40 times more surface area than a typical 1" filter. (The wall opening on the left of the photograph is an opening into the rec room that is needed to pull the filter all the way out - due to the narrowness of my furnace room.)
No more unpleasant smokey odors: Aprilaire furnace filters can significantly reduce odors caused by tobacco and other household smoke, and can remove most smudging particles - particles 5 microns or other that lead to scummy films of stain on your walls, countertops, furniture etc. If you have a smoker in your house, you'll definitely want the added filtering strength of the AprilAire to reduce odors from the smoke. However, don't expect this air filter, or any other filtering or air purifying device, to reduce the health effects of second hand smoke - none of them do.
Other facts of interest
Here are some observations of interest about Aprilaire furnace filters, and furnace filters in general:
When to run your furnace filter: The most important time to run your furnace air filter is for several hours after vacuuming, since vacuuming stirs up large amounts of dust. After you vacuum, set your furnace fan to the "On" mode (instead of the "Auto" mode, which makes it run only when the furnace is actively heating), and this will keep the filter busy removing that stirred up dust until it's all trapped in the filter.
In praise of older filters: Aprilaire furnace filters improve with age - they actually do a better job of filtering the air as they age. As particles begin to fill in the gaps in the filter, fewer and fewer particles can get through. Of course, this also makes it harder for the air to get through, increasing strain on the blower motor, which is why you should replace an Aprilaire furnace filter when it gets heavily clogged. Recommended frequency is once per year for homes where the blower runs continuously, and once every two years for homes where the fan is set to "Auto" and only goes on when the furnace or AC is working. Of course other factors such as dust sources inside and outside the home play a role too. If you have a shedding pet, or a smoker in the house, or live next to a coal mine, more frequent changes of Aprilaire furnace filters may be worth considering!
If you are immune system compromised, the best Aprilaire furnace filter is the Aprilaire Model 5000. It can remove over 98% of all airborne particles one micron in size or larger. It also kills viruses and bacteria it traps, so that even if they should happen to blow back through the filter and out a heating/cooling register, they can't harm you. I tend not to put too much credence in this life-killing feature - if 98% of all particles are filtered out, I see killing that remaining 2% as overkill unless you live in an infectious diseases ward. But if you want peace of mind, you have it. (Bear in mind that only about 1 in 30,000 individual bacteria is actually harmful to humans, animals and plants if we count by total population. Even looking at bacterial species, at most a third of all bacterial species are pathogenic.)
Where to buy an Aprilaire furnace filter
You should purchase your Aprilaire furnace filtering system from an HVAC installer who is an authorized dealer for Aprilaire products. They will help you choose the appropriate system to meet your needs, and will ensure it is installed correctly. A great time to upgrade to an Aprilaire filter is when you are installing a new furnace, but they can be retrofitted to an existing forced air furnace. To find an authorized dealer I recommend Quality Smith, since they provide a free and easy way to get three HVAC quotes from independent contractors.
Once you have your Aprilaire system installed, you can buy replacement media from your installer or the company that services your furnace. They will install the media for you as required. I find the filters quite pricy - I think I pay about $70 per filter - but on the other hand I only have to pay for the filter every couple of years. If you are willing to expend the effort to install the filter yourself, Amazon provides a wide range of Aprilaire furnace filters available at a fraction of the dealer cost. See Aprilaire furnace filters on Amazon.com for their selection.