Air Filters and Home Depots Dirty Little Secret

Do you buy air filters for you house?  What am I saying… of course you do. Just about everyone does.

Are you over paying for air filters?

You probably are.   I did.  For 7 years I overpaid.

Then last year I found a place to buy them online that’s much cheaper.  And this year when I went to do some research for this article I discovered that some companies within the air filter industry are trying to pull a fast one on YOU!

air filter tips and discounts

Look – I’m not a conspiracy nut or something like that.  I’m just a Dad who has a family to support and a house to keep up.  I take out the trash and I change the filters – these are some of my best contributions to the house.  That… and my insane knowledge of how to hook up electronics.

I know this is my basement finishing website but I thought you guys would appreciate hearing my story and getting less expensive filters (of the same quality).

First, let’s start with why I’m angry at Home Depot.

MERV vs FPR

At some point last year Home Depot stopped selling filters that list their MERV rating.  Instead they use a rating call FPR.  It doesn’t matter what these stand for what matters is the MERV is a universal industry rating and FPR is a made up rating by the manufacturer.

I talked with Sanjay, at my Home Depot in Reston VA,  for about 30 minutes about this and he said he didn’t know about MERV ratings and couldn’t tell me what the equivalent FPR would be.

Really Sanjay…?   Well that’s shocking!

Especially since you are self-proclaimed filter department guru here at the HD.

I’m mad at HD because without the MERV rating it’s very difficult to compare their pricing with the pricing online or at other retailers.

Get Furnace Filters at 50% Off

Let me get to the guts here.  A MERV 8 “equivalent” filter at Home Depot is between an FPR 7 and FPR 9. The price is around $10.97 per filter.  A MERV 8 rated filter where I buy my filters is $6.99. And if you buy 12 or more during an order (which I recommend) then the price drops to $5.99.  (all pricing was as of Jan. 2013)

The price is the same regardless of filter size – that’s the same at Home Depot or online.

I buy my air filters at www.rememberthefilter.com.

Orders over $29 get free shipping. Return shipping is also free, if for some reason you get the wrong size or just have a problem.

Air filters full box

Here’s my stack of filters (3 years worth). The kids are into the game MineCraft. Charlotte’s pretending to be a creeper. Kids love boxes!

Order an Entire Box

If you’re trying to find time to finish your basement or anything in life for that matter you need to MAKE time where you can.

Buying air filters is a waste of time.  You have to remember the size, go to the store, find the right brand and do this 3 or 4 times a year.

Instead you should go online, order a full box of filters  (there are 12 in a box).  Now your set for at least 3 years. You get the discount and the free shipping.

You’re going to buy filters, no matter what, so you might as well save time and money.

MERV 8, The Only MERV for ME

Use MERV 8.  You don’t need anything higher (and more expensive) to protect your HVAC.  If you have allergies, try a higher rating, but if you don’t notice a difference (fewer symptoms) go back to 8. Try a dedicated air filter appliance instead.

Don’t believe the hype of FPR.  It’s strictly a marketing plow.  I’m not saying Home Depot filters (Honeywell and Rheem) are bad.  I just think they’re mis-leading and over priced.

By the way, the brand I buy is called ‘NaturalAire‘.  But it really doesn’t matter – the MERV rating is what matters.

You can buy the next level down from MERV 8 but most of the websites I investigated and A/C guys I talked to said going lower than 8 could harm your HVAC unit.  From what I can tell FPR 4 at the HD is a level below MERV 8.

A Few Thoughts on Air Filter Life

All of the standard home air filters are rated for 90 days.  Regardless of rating they are all set to work for about 90 days.

But! Not just any 90 days. 

If it’s spring or fall and you’re not running the air very much then your filter can go longer.  It’s just sitting there it’s not collecting dust and junk.

To really know when you need to change it you need to look at it.  Does it look grey to dark grey?  Probably time to change it. If it’s not greyish then don’t change it, even if it as been 90 days.

Of course, the opposite can be true.  We had a long haired grey cat (R.I.P. “Mouse”) and our filters needed to be replaced every 60 days or so during the heavy winter months.

Oh, and don’t delay changing it because you want to save money.  An A/C unit with a dirty filter uses more electricity to pull the air through – I did the math (yes, I’m a big nerd) you’re losing more money by not changing it.

3 Tips to make Filter Changing the Ultimate fun

air filter knife

I use this knife for other things, but above all its my air filter knife.

I now have about 12 years of house ownership experience.  So I like to think I know a thing or two about how to do shit around the house (pardon my language, but I’m old).  Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way.

1. Dedicate a knife just for filter changing.   Here’s mine.  I use it to cut open the plastic wrapping, prior open the latch on the grate and sometimes pry out the filter if it’s really stuck in there.

2. Protect your carpet by using the plastic or paper from the new filter to hold the dirty filters until your done. I have 3 to replace upstairs, this makes it easy.

3. If you buy the wrong size (not that I did, I’m just sayin’… suppose you did) outline the size you need and use some scissors to cut it.  Works fine without the frame on two sides.

cut air filter to fit

Final Word on Air Filters

Buy them online and save about $60 on a box of 12 versus a retail store.  For me, with 4 filters types (1 in the basement and 3 upstairs) I saved  $239.36. 

basement finishing jason 205

WOW!  I shocked and saddened that I had so much to say about air filters.  But… it must be said. I’ll counter it this weekend with a lot of foosball and Miller Lites to keep the universe from tipping over.

Leave a comment below if you’ve got some more filter knowledge or tips.

Cheers –  Jason

I am an affiliate for Rememberthefilter.com. This means that if you use the links in this article I earn a small commission   This in no way affects your price nor does it influence my opinion of the company. The commission I earn helps support this website and fund my future basement theater room.  Just wanted to be upfront with you.  Thanks for supporting the site!

 

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Comments

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  1. Some things just need to be said. Thanks for saying them.
    I too am getting old and pissed about proprietary rating systems.
    Thanks for the follow up. How did you eventually determine FPR 7-9 was MERV 8?

    • Hey Matt – I did some research and read a few articles on this. Based on the testing results and pricing tiers This is about where the MERV 8 falls. It also makes sense from a marketing stand point. Home depot wants to charge more for the same filter so they’re rating nicely comes in at a 9, which is higher than 8. Of course, a lot of people won’t realize that it’s a 9 on a completely different and arbitrary scale. So they charge more because you “think” you’re getting more. But to me, you’re just paying more – a lot more. – Jason

  2. On the Home Depot site, they post that FPR 7 & 9 are both MERV 11. Of course, everything on the internet must be true.

  3. Bubba Bouy says:

    Home Depot sucks!!… Buy the correct size filters. Do not waste your time cutting them down McGeiver. They will not seal properly in the return air filter grille after you cut them. MERV is the industry standard for air filter rating. FPR is just a number, it means nothing.

  4. Those disposable furnace filters are sooooo expensive nowadays, it makes me shudder. We home owners, mostly working middle class, taxed to death by the local and federal governments: income tax, real estate tax, car tax, sales tax, etc, etc, ,not much left in our pockets to keep up with the raising prices of food and other necessity, one of them is the furnace filters!
    Thank you for writing this article, every dime we can save counts.

    • Electro Static metal Filters..
      Cost $30
      Remove them once a Month during Heating Season, otherwise every 3 mos rest of Yr when only use your A/C
      _Use anykind of Decent Spray Cleaner- Even Vineger and Water or Some Bleach cleaner
      Spray it on in the utility Sink, let it set for a Few min, hose it off.. let dry for a Few Min\Done deal.. We do ours When do Laundry in same Utility room
      Just use a FPF or wather of 7 or Higher..
      And Buy On Line? Sure, after pay Shipping costs? Your paying the same vs In a Store.. Aren’t you?
      And remember, The higher the Rating, the thicker it is and Less Air and heat Gets thru..You will have to Set your Blower to run an extra 1-2 min Longer every cycle…

      Top Electronic Cleaners are the Best.. but Cost $ 2-$300
      and Clean your Ducts! Every Year Minimum..
      a Simple HD Vacum with a 10 ft Extension Hose is all you need.
      Do every Floor Vent..
      Spray with LYSOL when done..

      We also Run a Seperate Air Cleaner In the house.. -On a Timer..
      On Low Speed..

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  6. For 1″ thick filters above 24″ there is a added charge,..a high added charges. If you need the larger filters go to http://www.filterfast.com. You will have to pay a $5.95 shipping, but you can add as many 6 packs as you want and still only pay the same shipping. Also, at least once per year at a minimum, homeowners should clean the evaporator coils on your ac along with spraying down the compressor coils. Also, it is wise to drop a cup of bleach down your ac condensation line as it will keep bacteria and algae from clogging the line.

  7. Kiyale Olden says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article.

  8. Appreciate the info–thx much!!

  9. Great post – I think you summarized the situation well. I have sort of a hybrid solution in that during the time I run the system the most I use the disposable filter that I can pitch and the rest of the time I have a set of reusable filters that can be hosed down and put back in place. My filters are easily accessible so that isn’t an issue for me. Again, thanks for the effort and research.

  10. Last comment…..The NatualAire 20 x 20 x 1 (12 pack) – MERV 8 are currently $45.48 (with shipping) on Amazon.com vs. $59.99 at Remeberthefilter.com Never hurts to look elsewhere.

    • Jack – Great price! I’m going to re-compare all of the Remember the Filter pricing and perhaps update the post. Thanks for commenting. – Jason

  11. You’re all wasting your money on replaceable filters! Purchase a $20 – $30 washable MERV 8 filter. To clean, simply run a sweeper over both sides to remove dust, hair, etc. then spray water through one side of the filter in the same direction as the air flow (indicated by arrows on edge label). Be sure to spray each cell (I think of it as an Excel spreadsheet spraying every row and then column of the filter). Lastly take your leaf blower and blow through one side of the filter in the same direction as the air flow to dry and remove any remaining small obstructions. The filter is now good as new!

    I’ve had excellent results with filters lasting 10+ years without any crap from the air or filter itself getting into the AC unit. Even though it’s a 3 step cleaning process every month or two (depending on use and/or season) it is well worth the cost savings and filtered air that my family breathes.

    • Dan – This is some great insight on washable filters. I always wondered if those worked as well as the paper based. That being said, for me personally, I’m sticking with paper – because I don’t really like washing the filter each month. I agree that it would be cheaper, but I just don’t like doing it. I do like having a reason to fire up my leaf blower though…

  12. longbeachyo says:

    Very nice. Now you need to tackle the TV industry and their arbitrary “response time” ratings… Ready, set, GO!

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