Types of Washable Air Filters (Reusable Furnace and AC Filters)

Washable air filters are more economical – and a little more work – than constantly buying replacement disposable filters.

Running the AC without a filter isn’t a good option either, at least not for long, because the filter is necessary to keep the air in your house free of any unwanted airborne particles.

Reasons to Use a Washable Air Filter

It is recommended by many HVAC experts that you change and replace your AC filters at least every 90 days, but if there are allergies in the home, then you should replace your ac filter every 45 days. Our Pick HVAC team offers tips on knowing when to replace your filter.

If you don’t feel like purchasing and changing AC filters as frequently as every 30-90 days then you could choose to use either a reusable or a washable filter.  In this informational article you will learn about the different types of washable and reusable AC filters, including brand, effectiveness, and price.

Washable Air Filter Brands and Information

Reusable or washable AC filters are also called electrostatic filters. Even though electrostatic filters are designed to last for up to 5 years or more, they will need to be removed and washed down every month.

Here is a list of various types or brands of reusable AC filters (the prices will vary due to different sizes of AC filters):

  • Lifetime Brand Silver Series – can last up to 3 years.  MERV rating of 11. Average retail price of $45.
  • EZ2000 – can last up to 5 years. MERV rating of 6. Average retail price of $90.
  • Quik-Kleen – can last for up to 5 years.  MERV rating of 6. Average retail price of $80
  • MaxMerv – can last up to 5 years.  MERV Rating of 9.  Average retail price of $90.
  • K&N – This type of filter claims to last a lifetime.  It has a MERV rating of 11.  Average retail price of $40 for a 1” 20 by 20 filter.
  • Trophy Air – An aluminum washable filter that can last up to 5-10 years.  A MERV rating of 8.  Average retail price of $45 for a 1” 16 by 20 filter.
  • Clean Air Solutions – NeverBuyAnotherFilter – 4 types of metal, fully washable AC and furnace filters from MERV 6 to MERV 9. Cost is $55 to $90 depending on model and size.
  • Carter 8 MERV – USA-made washable electrostatic air filter for AC air handler and furnace. Cost is about $60.
  • AirCare Electra Silver – Electrostatic and washable, $55.

Other Options for Washable and Reusable Air Filters

Besides buying and using the various types of washable/reusable AC air filters in your HVAC system, there are a couple other options available to help filter the air in your home.  You can purchase an extra air filtration system that can connect to your HVAC system that can remove up to 98% or more of airborne pollutants in air that comes from your heating and cooling system.

Below are two options of air filtration systems that have reusable or washable filters:

  1. Honeywell F300 – An electronic air cleaner or filtration system that can connect to most HVAC systems that are forced air. The cost for the Honeywell F300 air cleaning system is around $600 for the air cleaning unit and will most likely need to be installed by a professional HVAC technician.  The Honeywell system uses a three-step filtration system and has a MERV rating of 11. It also has a 5-year warranty. You will need to wash or clean the filter every 6-12 months, depending on where you live and if you have pets.
  2. Trane CleanEffects – This is an air purification system that you can connect to your HVAC system. Trane CleanEffects costs around $1200 for the unit, but they are very effective at filtering out the airborne contaminants in your home. Trane states that the CleanEffects can filter out 99.98% of all airborne particles. This makes it 100 times more effective than a typical one-inch disposable AC filter, according to Trane. While we think that’s an exaggeration, this is still an outstanding air cleaner. The filter in the Trane air purification system will need to be vacuumed or rinsed every 3 to 9 months, depending on usage. Here’s how to do it.

How to Clean a Washable Air Filter

Directions vary by brand, and you should follow them close.

But here’s what we have found works well for most washable air filters.

  • First, remove the “heavy stuff,” if it’s bad by gently pulling it off, like removing lint from a dryer lint filter.
  • Secondly, use a shop vac with a bristle brush attachment to go over the filter a couple times, at least once on each side.
  • Thirdly, use a combination of mild detergent and warm water to wash the filter. While it’s wet, gently scrub it with a bristle brush, if needed, to remove stuck-on dirt.
  • Next, rinse it with a hose.
  • Finally, if you need to re-install it right away, and you should if you’re running the furnace or AC or heat pump hard, use a hair dryer to dry the filter first.

Buy a Second Washable Filter!

Here is a pro tip you might thank us for – Once you find a washable air filter you really like, buy a second one. Why? Two reasons. Products seem to come and go quickly these days, and the filter you like might not be available when you want a replacement. And also, having a second filter means you’ll get two times the longevity.

Also, this allows you to have a dry, clean and ready-to-go filter available when you remove the old one. You won’t have to blow-dry the one you wash, and you won’t have to immediately clean it either if you’re pressed for time. Just slide in the second filter, and the air you breathe will be filtered as usual.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are common questions related to washable air filters.

How often should I change a standard 1” AC filter?

Your AC filter should be removed and replaced every 30-90 days according to most heating and cooling experts. However, the amount of use your HVAC system is being used will play a big part on how often it should be replaced.  For example, for homeowners that live in North Dakota their HVAC’s system air filter every 2-3 months all year long.  In contrast to the climate in North Dakota, homeowners that live in very mild or hotter climates, such as Texas or Florida, will need to change their filter once during winter season and every 6-10 weeks during the summer months.

What are some signs that your AC filter needs to be replaced or cleaned?

Changing the AC filter in your heating and cooling system is very important to ensure your HVAC unit works as efficiently as possible.  You will need to replace the AC filter as soon as every 30 days, but up to 90 days.  The signs that your AC filter will need to be replaced or cleaned are pretty simple.

First of all, take out the filter and look at it.  If it appears to be dirty, then it needs to be replaced or washed.  Secondly, if the airflow coming out of your vents seems to not be as strong then there is a good chance your AC filter will need to be replaced or cleaned thoroughly.

Why use a washable or reusable AC filter?

The main reason is cost savings. If you don’t mind doing the work, one washable filter at $50 to $100 will last as long as approximately 20-60 disposable filters at $5 to $20 each. Do the math to see if it makes sense for you.

Secondly, washing a filter rather than throwing one away is better for the environment. Fewer materials are used and tossed into a landfill.

Are there reasons NOT to use a washable/reusable air filter?

Yes. Even though using a washable AC filter can save you money over a period of time, it also comes with some very significant negatives.  First of all, there is a fair amount of maintenance that needs to be done when using a reusable filter.  You will need to wash the filter every 30-90 days with water or a mild detergent.  Then you have to let it dry before replacing it.  Washable AC filters are also more prone to mold growth than disposable filters.  Secondly, on average disposable AC filters tend to have higher MERV ratings, so washable filters are not as effective at removing airborne contaminants.

What does MERV Mean?

MERV stands for “minimum efficiency reporting value.”  It measures the effectiveness of an air filter to remove airborne particles from the air that goes through the filter.  Filters can have a MERV rating starting at 1 and going all the way up to 20.  Most air filters in homes have a ranking of between 1-4, but some homes use filters with a MERV rating of 8-12 for better air quality.

Our guide What is MERV Rating and What MERV Should I Choose has lots of information on the subject.

How many disposable AC filters will one washable air filter replace?

Since you are supposed to replace your AC filters every 30-90 days and a washable filter can last up to 5 year or more you will save between 20-60 air filters over the lifetime of your reusable filter.

What is the difference between an AC filter and a furnace filter?

There is no difference. Lots of people search the term “AC filter,” so it has become popular. The same kind of filter is used in a furnace or air handler/heat pump combination for heating and air conditioning.

My pleated filter isn’t washable, right? Can I do anything to clean it?

Right. It isn’t washable.

However, you can get another week or two out of it if you brush off the thick dust and debris covering it. We highly recommend you take the filter outside to do this. Use a fairly stiff bristle brush to gently – very gently – brush off what you can. You can vacuum it with a strong shop vacuum too.

This is not a long-term solution, because it is impossible to get all the fine particles out of it. But again, if the furnace is really dirty, and you have to go to the store or order one online for replacement, then this will help for a few days.

Can you recommend good disposable air filters? Washable filters sound like too much work!

Sure. See our Guide to the Best Air Filters for this year. These are disposable, but high-quality air filters with a range of MERV ratings to meet your needs.

Written by

Rene has worked 10 years in the HVAC field and now is the Senior Comfort Specialist for PICKHVAC. He holds an HVAC associate degree and EPA & R-410A Certifications.

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