Deciding between a Washable and Disposable Air Filter

The air filter installed in your AC, heat pump, or furnace is one of the most important components of your HVAC system. However, because of its location inside the system, it is often overlooked. To a layman, filters are nothing more than cardboard boxes full of pleated material or fibers. However, air filters have a huge impact on your indoor comfort and the performance of your HVAC equipment.

The Function of Air Filters

The basic function of an air filter is to clean the air circulating through your cooling or heating system. These components trap and hold lots of contaminants and particulates that may easily affect your comfort and health if let through. They include pollen, dirt, dust, mold, lint, animal far, bacteria, and other microorganisms. The point at which filtration takes place is where the expended air is brought back into the heating equipment so as to be conditioned and distributed once more. As the air forces its way through the filter, the material that makes the filter removes the contaminants and particulates from the air.

Disposable and Washable Air Filters

Having seen the importance of air filters in giving you a particulate free home, it is imperative that you get it right when choosing the right filter for your system. There are many factors that come to bear including MERV ratings, costs, shape, and even size. Filters come in two broad categories: disposable and washable. The following is a comparison of the two types of filters.


Disposable filters are made from different materials and this affects their cost. But even with that, many disposable filters range from $10 to $15. Compared to washable filters which can last for several years, disposable filters are usually less expensive, but have to be purchased every 3 months or in the extreme, on a monthly basis. The washable filter despite costing you more upfront, it may end up saving you money going into the future.


As pointed out above, disposable filters are supposed to be replaced on a monthly or quarterly basis. This means you should have a plan in place complete with a technician who will handle the work. The replacement process for a disposable filter is simple and within a matter of minutes, you will be done. For convenience purposes, you may decide to stock up enough filters for the entire year instead of running to the hardware store every now and then.

Washable filters on the other hand must be cleaned approximately at the same frequency as the changing of disposable filters. The cleaning can be a difficult task especially where dust and debris has accumulated over time. If you do it yourself, you will have to dedicate a considerable amount of time to have this sorted.


This is another area where the washable and disposable filters differ. In general, the efficiency of a disposable version of a filter is higher than its washable counterpart. Filters are usually given the MERV rating which simply ranks the filters based on their efficiency in trapping airborne particles. The major problem with washable filters is that they become lesser and lesser efficient over time. Even with regular cleanings, a time comes when the filter is so packed with dust and dirt that it cannot be completely clean.

If you aren’t quite sure on which filter to go for, get a reliable HVAC technician who can help you assess your air filtration needs and advise you on the right filter.

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