Do you buy air filters for your 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 discovered that if I buy them here online in bulk it'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!
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 online is $6.99. And if you buy 12 or more during an order (which I recommend) then the price drops to $4.99. (all pricing was as of Dec. 2014)
The price is the same regardless of filter size - that's the same at Home Depot or online.
Orders using Amazon Prime get free shipping. If you use this Amazon affiliate link I already have the sizes and MERV rating in the search box, you can just adjust it to find what you need.
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
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.
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.
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 Amazon. 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!