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Insider Secrets to Buying Furnace Filters and Saving Big Bucks

by Kevin King December 05, 2018

Insider Secrets to Buying Furnace Filters and Saving Big Bucks

Protect Your Family's Health and Your Wallet

Getting the right filter for your furnace is not as easy as it used to be as new and old homes alike are switching to more sophisticated systems to protect the air quality in our homes. Originally HVAC filters were designed to protect the expensive equipment from dust and debris that could damage the systems and reduce performance.

Start Saving on Furnace Filters

As indoor air quality in our homes has become a greater concern Companies like Lennox and Carrier have designed highly efficient systems to purify the air in your home. The more sophisticated Lennox PureAir systems, for instance, require replacement of both high-efficiency furnace filters and ultraviolet bulbs and catalytic filters. The fact is these new HVAC systems are providing ultra high-quality air in our homes to help protect the health of families, but often replacement parts and filters can seem to be costly if you do not know insider secrets.

Buy Your Filters Like A Pro

You will learn the best way to buy your filters. Where you can save money, and when an investment in the proper filter not only protects your expensive equipment but also your family’s health. Finally, we will give you expert tips to save not just money but time and money.

protect your families health with the right Air Filter

HVAC companies that do maintenance on systems used to provide and replace filters during regular system maintenance. In many cases, they still are the primary provider for filters and in some cases the most expensive source. But because these filters were so expensive, homeowners started searching for better pricing. Until recently unless you were in a large city with a Dealer or a supply house it could be very difficult to find your filter locally. Recently some of the large box stores like Home Depot and Lowes Home Improvements carry a few brands, but compared to Online Market Places like Amazon eBay and Walmart even the box store prices seem high.
Pro’s and Cons of Buying on A Market Place
There are quite a few pros to Buying furnace filters on a Market Place can get you a reasonable price and marketplace protecting. Most marketplaces provide buyer and seller protection. This attracts a large variety of buyers which in turn attract a large volume of sellers creating completion in the marketplace bringing down cost. The largest Con to buying on a marketplace is Market Places all charge sellers a commission fee. Usually, the fee is from 10 to 15%. Sellers include this fee in the cost of the filter. Many of these new filters or Kits( including Filters and bulbs) can cost $100 to $200. The seller fee from the marketplace can add as much as $40 extra dollars to your cost.

How to Find Furnace Filters at the Best Price

Online retailers that specialize Furnace Filters are the best place to find your filter for the best price, but depending on your brand you may need to search a couple of sites to the best deal. You can usually find the tops sellers in the first 2 to 3 pages of a Google search for your model filter(ie “Carrier GAPCCCAR1620”) or your brand(ie “Carrier Furnace Filters”), but the first result is not always the lowest price.

Saving Big Bucks on Furnace Filters by knowing the SecretsGoogle shopping is a good place to search but often companies list compatibles or aftermarket(new replacement filters made for a specific model but not made by the manufacturer of the equipment) replacements and not the OEM(original manufacturer equipment). Going directly to a site like is going to get you the best deal on your furnace filter.
Buying directly from the website of an online retailer that specializes in HVAC filters is so economical that many HVAC companies that provide service can buy the filters for their customer cheaper at an online retailer than from there distributor. In fact, many HVAC contractors just tell their customers to buy their filters online because of the significant savings.

When to buy the OEM and When to Consider Saving Money on a Compatible Furnace Filter

Lennox MERV 16, Carrier MERV 15 and Honeywell MERV 15 are among the highest efficiency filters and are generally specifically made for their own systems. The systems that require these filters are like the Ferries of the Furnace Filters world and would be best suited for the OEM option. In other words, if you have the Lennox PureAir system you should replace it with a Lennox MERV 16 filter and not a compatible so that you get the intended benefit of the PureAir System.
If, on the other hand, your Lennox System uses a MERV 11 filter, then you could save a significant amount on a compatible MERV 11 made by Atomic or even upgrade to a high quality filter like MERV 13 improving your air quality and still make significant savings. See example.

Get the Right Model Number to get the right replacement filter

Why Doesn’t My Filter Fit “ I order the Correct Size, Right?

Size Matters but the right size might not be the right filter.  This leads us to the Biggest Mistakes to avoid when buying you furnace filters online. The #1 problem for people not familiar with the furnace filter industry is ordering the correct filter. Filters can have two sizes, a Nominal Size, and an Actual Size.

Check the Actual Size vs Nomial Size on your Filter
This is because filters are generally labeled with what is called a Nominal Size which is a rounded size that could be rounded up or down and varies by manufacturer. The Actual size of the filter may or may not be listed on the filter but is the true measured size of the filter.
It is important that you have a correctly fitting filter because if there is a gap in the filter, dust, and debris that can damage your system can go right around the filter.
Getting the Correct Filter by Understanding Compatibility
The #2 problem for customers is that filters of the same actual size can have features that make them incompatible with other systems. Honeywell’s return grill filters have an inset shape that would prevent use in another system and Trion Airbear has a line of filters that have a foam gasket around the edge of the filter that could have the same result of only fitting a particular model furnace. Whether you are choosing an OEM or buying a compatible filter, you can take usually find the correct filter by taking a couple of simple steps.
First, check your existing filter. If you need to remove the filter, turn off the system first. The model number and Sizes are usually right on the side of the filter. Many filters such as Lennox includes compatible models and the systems for which they are compatible to be used. See image:

Rea The Filter Label  Filter with a Foam Gasket
Look at shape and features of the filter. If the filter does not have a special shape or gasket around the edge you can simply find the correct actual size and Efficiency Rating(MERV) you require to find a replacement.

Find Your Filter Easily

Enter The Filter Part Number or Size from Your Current Filter in the Search, for example, enter X8795 or 16x25x5.


Armed with this new information you will save time and money by getting the right filter at the best price. Let me know how you do! Please leave any questions on buying filters you may have in the comments.

Kevin King
Kevin King


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Many furnace filters are can easily be replaced with another brand and you may be able to get equal quality air filtration at a significantly lower price. But just because a filter has the same size printed on it as your current filter does not mean it is a suitable replacement. The Nominal size the filters may have printed on the filter and found in the title of the product is often different from the actual size of the filter. This Totaline P102-1625 has a nominal size of 16x25x1 but the printing on the filter also shows the actual size as "Size". This filter also lists compatible model numbers: M1-1056, AMP-M1-1056, P102-1625 and 918395. 

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Nominal Vs. Actual Sizes: Finding the Right Air Filter Size

Buying the Correct Size Air Filter- The Most Important Thing to Know 

When you are buying your air filter online most important thing to know is Air Filters have two sizes that you need to understand the Nominal size and the Actual Size. Not understanding these numbers often leads to consumers purchasing a filter that does not fit their Furnace or HVAC system.

Nominal vs Actual air filter size by Atomic


Understanding Nominal Filters Size Could Save You Time and Money

Not understanding the Nominal Filter Size is the primary culprit for incorrectly purchased filters.The Nominal Size is the usually the dimensions used to Label the filter. For instance 16x20x1. These dimensions are a rounded value on the filters actual measurements. The actual measurements on this filter may be 15.5x19.5x.75, but that could vary by brand and manufacturer. So in order to make sure you have the correct size filter, especially if you are replacing with a different brand it is important to confirm the actual size on the filter. When purchasing filters on the internet the Nominal size is usually found in the product title.

Actual Filter Size- The Key to Making the Right Replacement Filter Purchase

The actual size as you might have guessed are the actual dimensions of the filter by length, width and thickness. This size is often on the filter right below the Nominal size and is usually labeled as the actual size. When you are buying a filter online the actual size is sometime in the product bullet point or the product description. If your filter does not have actual dimensions on the outside of the filter, you can measure you filter to get the correct dimensions. Some brands have a foam gasket on the outside of the filter, in this case, you will want to make sure you have a compatible actual size and that it also has the foam to ensure a snug fit. 

Lennox Air Filter X0851 with Foam strips

Examples of Nominal and Actual Sizes

 Size  Example 1  Example 2
Nominal Size 20x20x1 16x20x1
Actual Size 19.5x19.5x.75 15.75x19.75x.75


 Furnace filters should fit securely but should not have to be forced into position. If you have to force the filter into its slot, then it is probably too big. Forcing an improper filter size in a filter can cause it to buckle, damaging the filter or reducing its ability to function properly. Filters are a smaller than their slot to allow for easy replacement. Some HVAC units may need a filter with dimensions that are unique or uncommon. In these cases, a custom filter needs to be ordered.