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What Type of Air Filter Should I Buy for My Air Conditioning System?

If you have ever replaced the air filter in your air conditioning system, you have probably noticed that there are an overwhelming number of different types available.

If you have ever replaced the air filter in your air conditioning system, you have probably noticed that there are an overwhelming number of different types available.

Some are thick, some are flat and some are pleated. So which one is the best?

In this blog, we’ll break down the different types of air filters into three main categories and briefly explain the pros and cons of each so you can make a more informed decision the next time you purchase an air filter.

Basic Air Filters

basic fiberglass air filter

Most Sarasota-area homes have just basic air filters in their air conditioning systems.

These filters offer the bare minimum in air filtration; they protect your cooling equipment from large particles that can damage your air conditioner, but they do not provide an real indoor air quality improvement.

Material: Usually fiberglass or polyester

Thickness: 1 to 2 inches

Example: Glassfloss 1-inch Filter


  • Cheap
  • Available at every store that carries filters
  • Easy to replace


  • Must be replaced every month
  • Don’t improve indoor air quality

Air Filter Frames with Replaceable Pads

Replaceable air filter pads and frame

Metal air filter frames with replaceable pads are a step up from your basic fiberglass and polyester filters. They offer the same protection for your air conditioning system but are less expensive to replace.

(In fact, if you are a CoolToday customer, you can get these air filters free for life.)

Material: Polyester

Thickness: 1 inch

Example: Replacement pads


  • Cheap
  • Easy to replace
  • Sticky on one side to help trap finer particles
  • Can be cut to any size
  • Protects your heating/cooling equipment


  • Replaced about every two months
  • Doesn’t capture small air particles very well

Pleated Air Filters

carrier pleated air filter

Pleated air filters offer more surface area than basic fiberglass filters. Therefore, they last much longer before needing to be changed out. They also capture more and finer airborne particles.

Pleated filters can come either in basic widths (1-2 inches) or as larger, more efficient widths (4-5 inches.) The wider pleated filters offer the advantage of being able to capture more pollutants without much restriction in airflow to your air conditioner.

Material: Fiberglass, polyester and synthetic unwoven materials

Thickness: 1-2 inches or 4-5 inches

Examples: Carrier FILCCFNC0014 (pictured), Honeywell FC100A1003


  • Long-lasting (can last as long as 12-months)
  • Captures smaller air pollutants, which can help improve indoor air quality
  • Readily available in a wide range of sizes


  • The more efficient, wider pleated filters may require modification to your ductwork to fit
  • Pleated filters are more expensive, although they also last much longer

Now that you know what you are looking at, you can make a more informed decision on which type of air filter is right for you air conditioning system.

You can also purchase air filters online from FiltersToday, a division of CoolToday.

CoolToday’s blog is written to answer Florida homeowner questions about heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electric. Contact us for more information.

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