The Best Best Furnace Filters of 2023

Regularly changing the filter helps protect your furnace from dust and airborne debris, but not all air filters are created equal. This guide highlights what to look for when buying a replacement furnace filter.

By Glenda Taylor | Updated Jan 10, 2023 5:34 PM

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The Best Furnace Filter Option

Photo: istockphoto.com

Changing a furnace’s air filter every 3 months can keep it from malfunctioning while contributing to better indoor air quality and reducing energy costs. Users should replace their filter in conjunction with the change in seasons as regular maintenance ensures the filter won’t become clogged with dust, pet hair, and other airborne particles, which can reduce the furnace’s efficiency.

Keep reading to learn everything a user will need to know about choosing the best furnace filter for any system and to find out why we’ve chosen the following replacement air filters as some of the top choices for most homeowners.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Filtrete AC Furnace Air Filter, MPR 1500 
  2. RUNNER-UP: Nordic Pure MERV 12 Pleated AC Furnace Filters
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Filterbuy Air Filter MERV 8 Dust Defense
  4. BEST SMART: Filtrete Smart AC Furnace Air Filter
  5. BEST FOR ALLERGIES: AIRx ALLERGY MERV 11 Pleated Air Filter
  6. BEST FOR PETS: Aerostar Allergen & Pet Dander MERV 11 Air Filter
  7. BEST FOR MOLD: Filter King MERV 8 Filter With Mold Protection
  8. BEST FOR CIGARETTE SMOKE: Filtrete AC Furnace Air Filter, MPR 1900
  9. ALSO CONSIDER: Honeywell Home MicroDefense AC Air Filter
Best Furnace Filter Options

Photo: depositphotos.com

How We Chose the Best Furnace Filters

We researched the most sought-after furnace filters in their respective categories and discovered that the best options available are compatible with many HVAC system and furnace brands, filter out as many pesky particles and contaminants as possible, have a long lifespan, and come with a high MERV rating (filter performance rating).

The favored type of furnace filters in the above list is the disposable pleated and electrostatic for their ability to filter out lint, dust, pet dander, soot, pollen, and mold spores. While many picks are not capable of filtering smoke and bacteria, most of these options come in multiple sizes and thicknesses to be compatible with certain furnaces. As for MERV ratings, most of the products above range from 8 to 12 without impeding airflow.

Select picks listed above can last for over 2 to 3 months at a time, but for convenience, some will last for over 12 months or come with multiple filters. As for special features, arrows on the frame to direct placement and airflow, odor-control, HEPA filters, and even Bluetooth capability are included for convenience.

Our Top Picks

The best furnace filter should protect the working parts of a furnace and trap dust, pet dander, and pollen to keep these airborne pollutants from recirculating in a home. Consult a furnace’s operating manual to determine the recommended thickness and MERV rating and then check out the following replacement filters at the top of their class. One is sure to be a good fit for a current furnace.

Best Overall

Best Furnace Filter Option Filtrete Air Filter MPR 1500
Photo: amazon.com

Available in more than a dozen sizes, the Filtrete AC Furnace Air Filter comes in as our best overall furnace replacement filter. Its high-efficiency MERV-12 rating makes it an excellent choice for homeowners who want to trap as much airborne debris as possible.

Filtrete uses exclusive 3-in-1 technology to trap lint, dust, pet dander, soot, pollen, and mold spores while encouraging fresh air to flow through the filter. The 1-inch-thick AC furnace filter is narrow enough to fit in most wall registers and in many slide-in filter holders located directly on the furnace itself. Users will want to measure their filter before ordering this high-efficiency filter to get an exact fit.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Disposable electrostatic
  • Size: 25 inches long by 20 inches wide by 1 inch thick, among other sizes
  • MERV rating: 12

Pros

  • Comes in many sizes
  • 3-in-1 technology; traps lint, dust, pet dander, soot, pollen, and mold to promote clean air
  • Compatible with multiple wall registers

Cons

  • Does not filter exhaust particles

Get the Filtrete MPR 1500 furnace filters at Amazon.

Runner Up

The Best Furnace Filter Option: Nordic Pure MERV 12 Pleated AC Furnace Air Filters
Photo: amazon.com

Changing furnace filters is a snap with Nordic Pure MERV 12 Pleated AC Furnace Filters that block a high level of dust and other airborne pollutants that could otherwise end up in the furnace or recirculating throughout a home. These disposable pleated filters are hypoallergenic and feature electrostatic fibers that attract pollutants, and they resist mold and mildew growth.

These AC furnace filters are 1 inch thick and come in a variety of sizes. Because these filters offer a high MERV rating of 12, they may clog more quickly than filters with lower scores. Depending on how often a furnace runs, users may need to replace them more often than every 3 months.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Disposable pleated
  • Size: 16 inches long by 16 inches wide by 1 inch thick, among other sizes
  • MERV rating: 12

Pros

  • Hypoallergenic design to promote clean air
  • Electrostatic particles included; mold and mildew-resistant
  • Comes in multiple sizes

Cons

  • May clog faster than comparable options; frequent replacement may be required
  • Pricey

Get the Nordic Pure furnace filters at Amazon.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Furnace Filter Option: Filterbuy Air Filter MERV 8 Dust Defense
Photo: amazon.com

Users don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a quality furnace filter. With the Filterbuy MERV 8 Dust Defense air filters, users can replace their 16- by 25- inch filters with this economical option from Filterbuy.

This electrostatically charged filter will trap up to 90 percent of airborne particles, including lint, pet dander, and pollen, to keep a furnace running clean for up to 3 months before it needs to be replaced. For added convenience, this filter has arrows on its frame to help identify the direction of the airflow/which direction users should place the filter in their unit.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Disposable electrostatic
  • Size: 15.5 inches long by 24.5 inches wide by 0.75 inches thick
  • MERV rating: 8

Pros

  • Traps 90 percent of airborne contaminants to promote clean air
  • Lasts for up to 3 months; longer than similar options
  • Arrows included on frame to help with placement

Cons

  • Does not filter smoke or bacteria
  • Only available in one size

Get the Filterbuy furnace filters at Amazon.

Best Smart

Best Furnace Filter Option Filtrete Smart AC Air Filter
Photo: amazon.com

Available in dozens of sizes and with Bluetooth technology to monitor filter use, the Filtrete Smart AC Furnace Air Filter is a top choice for a furnace replacement filter. With a proprietary algorithm that detects airflow to track usage of a filter, users can worry less about changing the filter at the right time.

The high-efficiency MERV-12 rating makes this AC furnace filter an excellent choice for homeowners who want to trap as much airborne debris as possible. Filtrete uses exclusive 3-in-1 technology to trap filter media like lint, dust, pet dander, soot, pollen, and mold spores. The 1-inch thick filter is narrow enough to fit in most wall registers or many slide-in filter holders. Download the Filtrete app to monitor and receive alerts about the filter status.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Disposable electrostatic
  • Size: 12 inches by 12 inches by 1 inch
  • MERV rating: 12

Pros

  • Comes in many size options
  • Bluetooth-enabled; monitoring through Filtrete app
  • Traps lint, dust, pet dander, soot, pollen, and mold spores

Cons 

  • Does not filter ultrafine particles
  • Pricey

Get the Filtrete Smart furnace filters at Amazon.

Best for Allergies

The Best Furnace Filter Option: AIRx ALLERGY MERV 11 Pleated Air Filter
Photo: amazon.com

Available in a 1-inch thickness, a host of sizes, and completely disposable, the best allergy furnace filter pick goes to the AIRx ALLERGY MERV 11 Pleated Air Filter. It’s pleated and designed with extra density to trap airborne allergens that can trigger allergy symptoms. It’s also good at blocking smoke and odors.

The MERV 11 filter is dense and helps keep allergens from recirculating through a home’s ductwork. For the best air quality, use this filter in conjunction with other allergen-reducing measures, such as a vacuum with a HEPA filter and an air purifier to keep airborne allergens at bay.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Disposable pleated
  • Size: 20 inches long by 16 inches wide by 1 inch thick, among other sizes
  • MERV rating: 11

Pros

  • Comes in multiple sizes
  • Suitable for those with allergies
  • Built-in HEPA filtration and air purifier
  • Comes with 6 pleated furnace filters

Cons

  • Does not filter smoke or virus carriers
  • Expensive price point

Get the AIRx ALLERGY pleated air filters at Amazon.

Best for Pets

Best Furnace Filter Option Aerostar MERV 11 Pleated Air Filter
Photo: amazon.com

For homes with pets, check out the disposable, pleated, Aerostar Allergen & Pet Dander MERV 11 Air Filter that blocks a high number of airborne particles, including pet fur and pet dander. This high-efficiency, electrostatic filter attracts particles and traps them in place.

It is available in a range of sizes and thicknesses from 1 to 4 inches, making it an excellent choice for a variety of furnaces and return-air vent compartments. The Aerostar manufacturer recommends changing this filter every 2 to 3 months in the fall and spring, and monthly during heavy furnace use, such as in winter.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Disposable pleated
  • Size: 25 inches long by 16 inches wide by 1 inch, among other sizes
  • MERV rating: 11

Pros

  • Comes in multiple sizes
  • Lasts for 2 to 3 months
  • Comes with 6 pleated furnace filters

Cons

  • Does not filter bacteria
  • Some users report that the filters are not true to size

Get the Aerostar Allergen furnace filters at Amazon.

Best for Mold

The Best Furnace Filter Option: Filter King MERV 8 Filter With Mold Protection
Photo: amazon.com

Those living in a humid region may want to consider the Filter King MERV 8 Filter with Mold Protection that’s designed to trap pollutants, including mold spores, yet allow free airflow through the filter to reduce the risk of mold or mildew growth.

This disposable pleated furnace filter is available in a variety of 1- and 2-inch-thick sizes to fit a wide range of furnaces. The manufacturer recommends replacing it once every 3 months at a minimum. Meant for residential or commercial use, these filters also trap auto emissions, humidifier dust, and legionella. However, this option is not the best when it comes to tobacco smoke, bacteria, virus carriers, and microscopic allergens.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Disposable pleated
  • Size: 30 inches long by 30 inches wide by 1 inch thick, among other sizes
  • MERV rating: 8

Pros

  • Suitable for residential and commercial use
  • Filters auto emissions, humidifier dust, and legionella
  • Lasts for up to 3 months
  • Affordable price point

Cons

  • Does not filter tobacco smoke, bacteria, virus carriers, and microscopic allergens

Get the Filter King furnace filters at Amazon.

Best for Cigarette Smoke

The Best Furnace Filter Option: Filtrete AC Furnace Air Filter, MPR 1900
Photo: amazon.com

If a home has a wood-burning fireplace or the chef of the family tends to scorch meals regularly, the Filtrete AC Furnace Air Filter will help neutralize that smell of smoke and other lingering odors.

The 3-in-1 disposable pleated air filter is just under 1 inch thick. It absorbs smells and eliminates unwanted odors while trapping other airborne particles, such as dust, allergens, and pollen. This pleated air filter comes in a variety of sizes and should be changed a minimum of once every 3 months. This washable filter has a MERV rating of 13 and comes with two filters that have V-shaped pleats for a larger surface and added air flow.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Disposable pleated
  • Size: 25 inches long by 16 inches wide by 1 inch thick, among other sizes
  • MERV rating: 13

Pros

  • Odor- and allergen-control capabilities
  • Filters and traps dust and pollen
  • Comes in multiple sizes
  • 2 pleated filters included

Cons

  • Some users report manufacturing defects

Get the Filtrete furnace filter MPR 1900 at Amazon.

Also Consider

Honeywell Home MicroDefense AC Air Filter
Photo: homedepot.com

Users who are looking for a longer-lasting filter may want to check out the Honeywell Home MicroDefense AC Air Filter that lasts up to 12 months before needing to be replaced. This disposable 4-inch-thick filter features deep pleats and electrostatically charged fibers that capture and hold a large amount of particles in its crevices.

The filter is only available in two sizes, 16 inches by 25 inches by 4 inches and 20 inches by 20 inches by 1 inch, so users will want to measure the current filter to make sure the Honeywell extended use filter will fit. Additionally, this filter can help provide odor control.

Product Specs 

  • Type: High-efficiency pleated
  • Size: 16 inches by 25 inches by 4 inches or 20 inches by 20 inches by 1 inch
  • MERV rating: 8

Pros

  • Long-lasting; works for 12 months
  • Comes in 2 size options
  • Odor-control included

Cons

  • Does not filter bacteria

Get the Honeywell Home furnace filters at The Home Depot.

Jump to Our Top Picks



What to Consider When Choosing the Best Furnace Filter

Choosing the best furnace filter requires matching the filter to the furnace manufacturer’s specifications. Just because one filter blocks more particles than another doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for every furnace.

Filter Size

Furnace filters come in dozens of sizes, with 16-by-20-inch, 20-by-25-inch, and 16-by-25-inch being the three most common sizes. Filter thickness varies from 1 to 5 inches, and in general, the thicker the filter, the more particle-blocking ability it will have.

Before choosing a filter, users will need to check the owner’s or operating manual, because not all furnaces will accept a thicker product. As the filter gets thicker, the furnace must work harder to pull air through it, reducing its efficiency and useful life.

Washable vs. Disposable

Changing a furnace’s filter regularly (every 3 months is ideal) will help keep dust and other particles from damaging the furnace’s working parts, such as its heating coils and fan. Disposable filters are lightweight, relatively inexpensive, and can be tossed out after using. Washable filters feature a heavier aluminum frame with electrostatic fibers that serve as the filter.

A washable filter, depending on the brand, may last a few years. Still, it requires a specific washing procedure, which may include separating the filter into layers and washing them separately. Users must also make sure a washable filter is completely dry before reinstalling it to prevent mold and mildew growth. For many, using disposable filters is the quickest and most straightforward solution.

MERV Rating 

Furnace filters are assigned a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) based on their density. While denser filters trap more airborne particles, they should also be changed more frequently because they tend to clog more quickly. The MERV scale runs from 1 to 20, and filters in the 6 to 12 range are designed for residential use.

A furnace’s operating manual will recommend the MERV rating that’s best suited to the unit. Higher efficiency filters are mainly used in commercial settings and health facilities, where the HVAC system is powerful enough to draw air through a dense filter easily.

Climate 

Where a given user lives can factor into the type of furnace filter that’s best for their home. In humid, rainy areas, mold growth is a common concern, so when living in a damp region, user will want to choose a furnace filter with a MERV rating of at least 6 in order to block mold spores from being drawn into the furnace and then recirculating inside a home.

Types of Furnace Filters

As far as home improvement gear goes, furnace filters may rank among some of the least exciting products. There’s none of the danger and raw efficacy of power tools, none of the visual impact of perfectly mitered crown molding, and certainly none of the reassurance that accompanies significant investments like new windows or new roofing.

But there can be a big impact even in little things, and finding the right furnace filter can save money and improve air quality. Originally, filters were designed to protect the moving parts of the furnace itself. Still thanks to technological advancements, filters now prevent harmful particles from cycling back into the air that is breathed in at home.

Furnace filters are rated by their minimum efficiency reporting value, or “MERV.” The higher the rating, the more efficient the filter is at trapping airborne particles. The numerical range is from 1 (lowest efficiency) to 20 (highest efficiency). Read more about MERV ratings below.

Disposable Fiberglass 

A disposable fiberglass filter is the option that comes to mind when users think “furnace filter.” Created from 1-inch thick spun fiberglass, it does little more than prevent larger particles like dust, lint, and debris from gunking up a system. They have MERV ratings of 2-3 and cost just $1 to $2. Though they are very inexpensive and good for renters and those without allergies or asthma, they have little to no effect on cleaning the air.

Disposable Pleated 

Disposable pleated air filters, a popular option made from polyester or cotton paper, can remove some small particles like spores and mites for better air quality, but need to be changed frequently to avoid clogging and taxing an HVAC system.

These options have a MERV rating of 6 and cost $4 to $5. While relatively inexpensive, they are also made from green materials and block some small particles. But, they can add more resistance to airflow, making a system more expensive to operate.

High-Efficiency Pleated 

The granddaddy of furnace filters, high-efficiency pleated options are made from deep 4- to 5-inch thick pleated synthetic cotton attached to a very rigid metal grid to prevent leaks or fluttering. These filters are a little pricey at $100, but they have an excellent MERV rating of 14-16 making them suitable for use in hospitals.

Using one at home may be difficult since they are typically used in special housing due their thickness. But, they can screen out the smallest of particles and are beneficial for those with respiratory problems or autoimmune disorders.

Disposable Electrostatic 

A disposable electrostatic filter contains self-charging electrostatic cotton or paper fibers that attract and trap small particles. With a MERV rating of 10, these options are affordable in standard sizes and are a good solution for homes with children, pets, or smokers. If needed, custom sizes are expensive, leading to higher costs if replaced regularly over several years.

Reusable Electrostatic 

Similar to their disposable counterpart, a reusable electrostatic filter contains self-charging cotton fibers that attract particles. Permanent options have a removable, machine-washable furnace filter users can reuse for six to eight years. With a MERV rating of 8, these produce little waste, are more effective than pleated air filters, and a good option if users use a standard size. But, they are less effective than electrostatic models, and custom sizes are expensive.

Polyester

This reusable filter is denser than fiberglass, so it blocks more airborne particulates, and it comes in either a flat or pleated version in thicknesses up to four inches. Traps up to 91 percent of common airborne particles, including pollen and dust particles with a MERV rating of 8. As for the downside, these options do not eliminate the need to clean HVAC filters or coils at least every few years because some of the particles will still slip through.

HEPA

A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter blocks up to 99.7 percent of airborne particles that are 0.3 microns and larger, but it isn’t readily available in sizes to meet standard furnaces.

Because HEPA filters are so dense, they can reduce airflow into the furnace, so like high-efficiency pleated air filters, they’re typically used only in commercial furnaces or hospital settings. Though these picks block the highest level of airborne particulates and provide better air quality with a MERV rating of 16 to 20, they are not suitable for most residential furnaces.

FAQs

With a variety of furnace filters on the market, all promising to do a great job of trapping airborne particles, it’s only natural to have some questions about the best furnace filter for your home.

Q. What is the best MERV rating for furnace filters?

While MERV ratings go all the way up to 20, high-rated filters are generally reserved for health and research facilities. For residential furnaces, a rating of 12 is about the best.

Q. Do higher MERV ratings decrease airflow? 

Higher MERV ratings will often cause a more restricted airflow. However, the restrictions do not cause a significant impact when used in residential settings.

Q. Is a thicker furnace filter better than a thinner one?

Not always. Thicker filters are denser and block more dust and particles, but they may also cause the furnace to work harder to draw in air. Use only the type and thickness of filter recommended by the furnace’s manufacturer.

Q. What is the best type of furnace filter for viruses? 

According to a CNN article, HEPA filters with MERV ratings of 17 to 20 are best for reducing the spread of viruses, but most household furnaces cannot draw air through a dense HEPA filter.

Q. How often should you change your furnace filter? 

Many furnace filters need to be changed every 2 to 3 months, which is why many options come with four to six filters per purchase. However, select options can last from 9 to 12 months before requiring a replacement.

Why Trust Bob Vila

Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.