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Are High-Efficiency Furnace Filters Worth It?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Alright. Now, it’s time to chat with a pro out of Iowa. We’ve got Ed on the line who wants to get some information to put some issues to rest.  What’s going on, Ed?

    ED: I’ve got a homeowner in the Omaha area that is doing an extensive remodel. We’ve removed an awful lot of walls in the home and obviously, there’s a lot of new sheetrock and texturing taking place. Typically, when I do a job like this, obviously, you’re plastic-ing off various rooms to keep dust under control. But you know how dust can move around, regardless of how you try and capture it with blankets and so forth.

    TOM: Right. Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    ED: This particular issue, I’ve asked the homeowner to regularly check and change their furnace filter.

    TOM: OK.

    ED: And when she changed the filter, unfortunately, I saw one of the cheapest – those blue fiberglass filters that you and I …

    TOM: Right, yeah. We call them “rock-stoppers.”

    ED: That’s about it. That stop a rock and not much more.

    OK. Now, unfortunately, the response I got from this gal was not what I normally get. And here’s the deal, Tom: her brother is a salesman for heating-and-air-conditioning equipment in the Omaha market.

    TOM: OK.

    ED: And he tells her, “Lori, do not buy an expensive filter. Buy the cheapest filter that you can buy because the new, highly-rated-efficiency furnace filters that have the MERV rating 10, 12, 14 and up, they create so much resistance for the blower motor on the furnace, you will shorten the life of your blower motor significantly. Therefore, I recommend not using those filters.”

    I’ve never heard that and I told her, “Lori, I’ve never heard that in my life.”

    TOM: So here’s what I would tell Lori. I would say, “Lori, you either put in a high-efficiency filter or you become a high-efficiency filter. Do you want the dust stopped at the filter itself or do you want the dust stopped in your lungs? Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”

    And beyond that, whenever you’re doing a project that’s generating this level of dust, this is the rare circumstance when I will recommend a duct cleaning when the project is done. But you’re wise to try to limit the dust up until that happens.

    But look, if she’s got a family member that’s planting this in her brain, you’ve given her your best advice, I mean you’ve just got to walk away. I wouldn’t get between her and her brother.

    ED: OK.

    TOM: But I think that you’re correct. I think she is incorrect. I’ve never, ever seen any data whatsoever that said that high-efficiency filters cause shortened blower lives. And I’m sure I would’ve heard of this by now, considering for how long we’ve been talking about these and studying them.

    You know, if she doesn’t put a good filter in, what’s going to happen in this case – and if she doesn’t clean it – if she’s got a central air-conditioning system, that evaporator coil where all the air is being pulled through is going to get cake-solid with all that dust. And then it’s going to have a very short life for an air-conditioning compressor. Which isn’t terrible news because, let’s face it, she does have a brother in the business who can buy her a new one.

    ED: Well, I – and Tom, I …

    TOM: And that’s what I would call “poetic justice.”

    ED: Very well said. And I just wanted comfort in knowing that, in all the years I’ve been encouraging people to use high-efficiency furnace filters and going forward, am I giving, as a contractor, good advice or am I not?

    TOM: Nah, I think you’re giving excellent advice. Keep it up. Don’t let one bad experience dissuade you.

    ED: Thank you, Tom. Thank you, Leslie.

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