Whether you’re living in a home with a HVAC central air system or just a window-mounted or portable unit, you know that changing out your filter periodically is important for the long-term efficacy of your unit. But If you’re running a system that’s reliant on ducts and vents, did you know that there are other ways to keep dirt and debris out of your home?
Vent filters have become increasingly popular over the past several years as a means to “double-down” on filtration and ensure that your home is dirt and allergen-free. Most vent filters are designed to be less effective than HVAC filters overall, but strong enough to block larger debris, prevent insects from crawling in and out of vents, and make it easy to recover small items dropped into a vent.
Do you, however, need a vent filter to reduce the amount of allergens in the air? What sort of effect does a vent filter have on an HVAC unit? This article takes a closer look into vent filters to share their main purposes and advantages to help you decide whether or not you need to install these in your system.
Vent Filters Explained
Vent filters are designed to be placed inside the grating of an air vent. Air vents are often soft pieces of foam, fiber, or fabric, and can either be stretched to fit an opening or cut to properly sit within a duct.
Vent filters differ from HVAC filters in that you’ll need far more than one to effectively filter your home. HVAC filters are placed just outside of a home central air system, so all of the circulating air in the home must pass through the filter before continuing through the system. Vent filters, however, offer a last-step filtration that takes already-treated air and gives it one final pass through the filtration material. You’ll need as many vent filters as you have vents unless you intend to install vent filters in rooms where air quality is more important, such as a bedroom or living room.
Vent filters are also far less effective overall. This is necessary, as air filters can put a significant strain on a central air system that’s attempting to cool (or heat) a home. While it’s acceptable for the HVAC filter to be somewhat more powerful, “plugging” vents with filters across a system has an exponentially more serious effect as a whole.
Much like with HVAC filters, vent filters will need to be replaced periodically. Vent filters can also be removed from a system to collect items that have fallen into the system through the vent itself, which can make them a lifesaver for lost items like rings and other small valuables.
Do I Really Need Vent Filters?
Whether or not you need vent filters will depend on what you desire. Vent filters rarely come with MERV ratings and are going to be less effective than your HVAC filters, so it’s a good idea to try adjusting your HVAC filter first before opting for more vent filters.
For example, if you feel as if the air quality in your home is lower than you’d like, consider the MERV rating on your HVAC filter as well as the type of filter you’re using. We recommend opting for a pleated electrostatic filter or one that can be replaced often so that allergens are consistently removed. We’ll be getting more into alternative ways to allergen-proof your home a little bit later on.
If you need vent filters for reasons other than pure air filtration, such as the ability to catch small objects or prevent insect migration, then we highly recommend considering a vent filter. Ductwork—especially older ductwork—can develop holes and breaks in the system that can allow for more debris to enter the system as well as provide an avenue for insects, vermin, and other such creatures to enter into the home from the outside.
Vent filters are also good for pet owners, who may have one or more pets spending their time near vents. Pet hair is often large enough for vent filters to sort out, which can be a lifesaver for those with allergies. Given these difference, we recommend approaching vent filters as just one of the many solutions available for homeowners to reduce the number of allergens in the home. Using air vents instead of proper maintenance habits, however, will never be worth it in the end.
Air vent filters are fairly widely known for providing a way to clear out any gunk from your ducts, which begs the question: why not clean out the gunk first? Duct cleaning is one of many routine maintenance procedures required to keep your home's HVAC system healthy and happy. Without it, compromises in the ductwork or debris left for too long can begin to damage the system, not to mention lessen the quality of the air supply in your home.
If you’re seeing lots of gunk flying out of your HVAC system and your standard air filter isn’t picking it up, you may want to consider hiring professionals to give your ductwork a cleaning. Likewise, investing in more efficient air filters may be a good solution as well. Using vent filters to cover up genuine issues in the ductwork of your home is only a patch to a more sinister problem. We recommend taking the time to ask yourself: do I need to replace the filters or call in maintenance? While both are important, be careful not to confuse one with the other.
Allergen-Proofing Your Space
Aside from maintenance and duct cleanings, there are several other ways you can improve air supply in the home without resorting to vent filters:
Regularly cleaning your home is going to be one of the easiest ways to allergen-proof your space. We recommend vacuuming at least once a week across all types of flooring, as well as cleaning up upholstery and other fabrics with the appropriate attachments on vacuum cleaners. Aside from this, you can seek out professional carpet cleaning services from licensed professionals and make sure that your HVAC system is up to date and properly maintained.
Another great way to make sure your home has the best air quality possible would be to invest in an air purifier. Instead of working hard to provide clean air for the whole home, an air purifier can deep clean the air in a smaller space. Air purifiers utilize filters that are far stronger and more efficient than any vent filters you may find. Likewise, they are centrally located, so you won't need to worry about replacing filters all across your home.
If you're seeking vent filters more to block ducts and prevent accidents rather than filter the air, then these Floor Register Traps Floor Register Traps do an excellent job preventing your rings and earrings from falling into ductwork and having to call in the maintenance men.
That all being said, there is still quite the case to be made for air vent filters, and we can think of a few that we feel are worth your time and consideration. For example, Nordic Pure AC & Air Furnace Filters are designed to catch anything from smoke and dust to the smaller object you may drop into your vents. While they can put a strain on weaker systems, these vent filters are easy to install, replace, and utilize electrostatic materials to pull debris boards them.
Generally speaking, we think that vent filters work for those who have taken adequate action against allergens and debris in the home and still find themselves helplessly watching dirt and debris emerging from their vents. In addition, vent filters are relatively affordable, so if you’re curious about what they may bring to your air quality, there’s no harm in trying them out.
It would be a stretch, though, to say that air vent filters are necessary, and they definitely are no salve for a dirty system in need of maintenance. Provided you’ve taken the time to allergen-proof your home, taken appropriate maintenance measures, and invested in the right filter for your central air system, you should be enjoying the benefits of good, clean air with or without air vent filters.