Pleated Air Filters vs Non-Pleated and Why You Should Care

There is no secret that your air filter makes a difference in the quality of air in your home.

The air that circulates throughout your home is a key factor in your health, and can be a cause of seasonal allergies, asthma attacks, and other health concerns. (1)


“Only recently have scientists linked everyday air pollution to a variety of maladies, from neuroinflammation and Alzheimer's, to skin damage and aging.”

Dr. Claudia Aguirre, Huffington Post


Maintaining your home’s air quality by frequently changing the filters, dusting vents and fabrics, and purchasing the right air filter for your home can significantly improve your home life.

You’ll wonder why you avoided changing your air filter when you breathe in clean, fresh air in your home for the first time.

How do you choose between pleated and non-pleated air filters? What’s the difference between the two, and how does it affect your air quality?

This article covers the difference between pleated air filters and non-pleated filters so you can make the right choice for your home’s HVAC unit.

Pleated Air Filters VS. Non-Pleated Air Filters

Did you know that stale indoor air can affect your productivity? (2) That feeling of brain fog that you get when you sit down to work isn’t just in your head; it could be in the air you’re breathing day in and day out.


“Energy conservation efforts in the 1970s made it harder to improve ventilation because buildings were locked up tight to save electricity. It even got its own name — sick building syndrome — causing things like headaches, coughing and eye irritation, among other symptoms.”

  • Kayla Matthews, Huffington Post

Improved air conditions can lead to an increase in productivity, better rest at night, and better motivation throughout the day. Who knew that air quality could affect the way we go about our day?

There are two main types of air filters on the market today: pleated air filters and non-pleated air filters.

The common non-pleated filter is typically made of fiberglass. This fiberglass is meant to look like fabric, but it is rougher to the touch and is not woven as tightly together. Pleated air filters, on the other hand, are typically made of polyester or cotton fabric and woven tightly together so you can hardly see the space between the fibers with the naked eye.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Pleated Air Filters

Pleated air filters are the most commonly used filter in residential air systems, which makes them a promising fit, but there are always drawbacks. Pleated air filters typically come in a MERV rating between 7 and 13.

Here are some few benefits of using a pleated air filter:

  • Higher MERV rating, which filters more particulates from the air.
  • Captures small allergens such as dust, pollen, and pet hair.
  • Comes in a variety of sizes, able to fit almost any residential HVAC system.
  • Allows for greater transfer of heat through your HVAC system and increases efficiency of the whole unit.
  • Pleated fabric is biodegradable, making it an eco-friendly choice.

Pleated air filters are the top choice for residential homes because of their ability to trap smaller particles and reduce allergens in the home, creating a fresher home air environment.

Pleated air filters have very few drawbacks, and they can be easily circumvented most of the time, but they do exist. Here are some of the disadvantages of a pleated air filter:

  • Pleated air filters come in a variety of MERV ratings. Using a higher MERV rating than your unit can handle means the system will work harder to push air through the fabric, raising your energy bill cost.
  • There are more options for pleated air filters, making the buying decision less streamlined.
  • Pleated air filters are more costly on a per-filter basis, however, they do last longer than non-pleated filters.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Non-Pleated Air Filters

Non-pleated air filters are typically made of fiberglass, but there are two other types of filter that can be used in a residential setting.

Non-pleated air filters made of fiberglass typically have a MERV rating of between 2 and 3, making them excellent for catching large debris such as metal shrapnel, wood chips, or other large particles that would otherwise block pleated filters. On the other hand, they’re not so good at catching the smaller dust and allergen particles that float through the typical home.

Electrostatic filters create their own positive charge that attracts impurities and pollutants in the air, such as dust, dirt and pollen. These filters are typically permanent and require manual cleaning or washing instead of replacement. For a standard size HVAC unit, these filters may be a good fit for your home, but they can range upwards of $200 for a custom fit.

HEPA filters are another non pleated filter, which are top of the line when it comes to removing fine particles from the air. HEPA filters can even filter viruses and bacteria, making them the ideal choice for hospitals, nursing homes, and other commercial operations that rely on pristine air quality. These are typically too strong for residential units, however, with a MERV rating between 17 and 20.

Since fiberglass is the most common non-pleated residential air filter, we will focus on their benefits:

  • Catches large industrial debris that would block other filter materials.
  • Cost-effective to purchase up-front, with some filters costing less than $5 per filter.

Fiberglass filters have a few striking drawbacks:

  • Cannot be recycled, creating more waste in the landfill.
  • Does not filter smaller allergens and other particles.
  • Must be replaced every month or more due to the cheap material being unable to hold as many particles.

Which Filter is Right for You?

How do you know which air filter is right for your home?

Fiberglass air filters are not an eco-friendly or durable choice, with the lowest MERV ratings around. They do cost less upfront, but they need to be replaced every month at least.

Overall, we believe that pleated air filters with a MERV rating between 7 and 13 are the best choice for residential homes, and that they should be changed according to the use they see.

What You Need to Know Before Buying an HVAC Filter

There are a few key points that will help you on your journey to choosing an HVAC filter that is right for your home.


Overall, pleated air filters are the top choice for residential homes because of their ability to trap smaller particles and reduce allergens in the home, creating a fresher home air environment.

  • CleanAir

Find the Right Size

There are several sizes available on the market which are meant to fit different units. Your HVAC unit should list on the filter door what filter size you need. If this information is worn away, check the last filter that was in the unit.

It’s also important to note that some HVAC systems require a custom-made filter. This can get pricey, and you may want to look into getting a reusable or washable filter instead of a disposable one, as the cost for a custom reusable filter will pay for itself in the long run.

Balance the MERV Rating Against Your Unit

While it’s true that the higher the MERV rating, the better the filter is, not every unit can handle a high MERV rating. Check the informational panel on your HVAC unit to determine how high the MERV rating can go.

If you place a filter with a higher MERV rating into your unit, you will see the effects immediately, with reduced air flow, higher energy costs, and a struggling system. The unit will attempt to push air through a filter that has fibers spaced too tightly together, effectively blocking the unit’s airflow and causing damage to the system. You will also need to change the filter more often, as the dust particles will collect on the filter and block the unit’s ability to push air through further.

Most residential units can handle up to a MERV 13. MERV 8 or MERV 11 is a common middle-ground for both price and efficiency.

Decide How Much You Want to Spend

Air filters are inexpensive no matter the type you choose because you’re spending money on your health and quality of life. On the flip side, it’s still another thing to purchase frequently if you want to maintain your home’s health. If you care about your indoor air quality, be prepared to spend between $10 and $30 per pleated air filter.

Also keep in mind how often you need to change the air filter. You may be fine with spending the cash today, but what about in a month? What about two months? This is a small but important consideration to make.

Why CleanAir?

CleanAir serves Dallas, TX residents with the basic luxury of clean home air, delivering air filters on an air filter subscription based service and offering home installation for those who cannot or do not want to install each air filter. Our filters are delivered on the schedule you choose, with the air filters that are right for your HVAC unit.

Get started today for as little as $11.95 and choose everything from delivery frequency to size and MERV rating.

Finally enjoy the benefits of a local air filter service that is inexpensive, convenient and hassle-free.



  1. Huffington Post
  2. Huffington Post