Which AC filter is better- Pleated or Non-Pleated?

Air filters are an important component of an air conditioner and are responsible for cleaning the air inside your home. The better the quality of the filter, the cleaner the air inside your home will be. There are many types of AC air filters available, but every air conditioner has a certain type of filter that is compatible with it. Also, choosing the right filter for your system requires you to consider several factors such as the price of the filter, change schedule, size of the filter, etc. The AC filters can be broadly divided into two main types namely pleated filters and non-pleated filters. And one important question that arises here is which AC filter is better- Pleated or Non-pleated? Let us find out in this article. 

What are pleated filters?

The pleated air filters are the most common air filters used in air conditioners. These filters are made of synthetic sheets, cotton, or paper folded into pleats to increase the surface area of the filter. The increased surface area helps the filter in trapping more dirt, dust, and other particulates in the air. The more dust it traps, the cleaner air you get inside your home. These filters are required to be replaced once every three months or 90 days. 

Top pleated air filters recommended for your AC:

  1. AIRx Filters Allergy 16x25x1 Air Filter MERV 11 AC Furnace Pleated Air Filter Replacement Box of 6, Made in the USA
  2. Aerostar Allergen & Pet Dander 16 3/8×21 1/2×1 MERV 11 Pleated Air Filter, Made in the USA, (Actual Size: 16 3/8″x21 1/2″x3/4″), 6-Pack
  3. Aerostar Home Max 20x20x1 MERV 13 Pleated Air Filter, Made in the USA, Captures Virus Particles, 6-Pack
  4. FilterBuy 20x20x1, Pleated HVAC AC Furnace Air Filter, MERV 8, AFB Silver, 4-Pack
  5. MervFilters 12x12x1 Air Filter, MERV 8, MPR 600, AC Furnace Air Filter, 6 Pack
  6. Nordic Pure 16x25x4 MERV 12 Pleated AC Furnace Air Filters 2 Pack
  7. AIRx DUST 14x20x1 MERV 8 Pleated Air Filter – Made in the USA – Box of 6
  8. Nordic Pure 20x25x1 MERV 12 Pleated AC Furnace Air Filters 6 Pack

What are non-pleated filters?

The non-pleated air filters include fiberglass filters, electrostatic filters, and electronic filters. These filters are less expensive but are suitable only for trapping bigger particles. These filters don’t last long and are required to be replaced after every one month or 30 days. 

Which AC filter is better- Pleated or Non-Pleated?

The pleated air filters are better than the non-pleated filters and have several benefits such as cleaner air, longer life of air conditioner, etc. The various differences between them make the pleated filter better than the non-pleated filters. Let us know the reasons why pleated filters are better in detail.

  1. Better air filtration: A better quality filter provides better air quality by trapping dust particles present in the indoor air. The pleated air filters provide better air quality than non-pleated air filters. The non-pleated filters can only filter out relatively bigger particles, while the pleated filters are a step ahead and trap even finer dust and other particles. Thus the pleated air filters provide a better quality air filtration and thus you have cleaner air to breathe. The effectiveness of the pleated filters increases with continuous use, while in the case of the non-pleated filters it decreases with continued use. Also, the pleated filters are a bit expensive than the non-pleated filters, but they also better at cleaning the air. 
  2. Higher MERV ratings: The air filters with higher MERV ratings are better and more effective at cleaning the air. The non-pleated filters usually have a MERV rating falling between 2 to 6 and the pleated filters mostly have MERV ratings of 7 or higher. But, a filter with a high MERV rating is not always right for your AC. some air conditioners work better with a filter having a lower MERV rating. Filters with higher MERV ratings are made from dense material and sometimes make it harder for the air to pass through. This also makes the air conditioner work harder to pass the air through the filters and thus it consumes more energy. Filters with a MERV rating higher than 8 are necessary only for people with sensitive allergies, people with pets, or the ones who are indoor smokers. Before buying a filter, always confirm what type of filter is compatible with your air conditioner. 
  3. Maintenance and ease of use: Since filters are required to be replaced regularly, it is important to consider the ease of use that differs with different filters. Since the pleated air filters are better at trapping the dust and dirt particles, they will not fall out easily while removing the filter and other maintenance activities. But, in the case of non-pleated filters, it becomes a little messy during replacement as they are not very good at embedding dust particles. Also, the pleated filters are more rigid in comparison to the non-pleated filters and thus will not easily bend or fold during maintenance or when the air conditioner is running. The filters are replaced regularly after getting dirty due to continuous use, and thus they also need to be disposed of properly. The materials of the pleated filters are recyclable whereas the materials of non-pleated filters like fiberglass filters can not be recycled. 
  4. Protection for the system: When the dust and other particles pass through the filters and reach other parts of the air conditioner, and causes damage to the AC components or the entire system. Now, since the non-pleated air filters fail at trapping many dirt particles, the risk to the system is higher. But, the pleated filters are capable of filtering out even finer dust particles and thus protect the air conditioner from any damage that can be caused due to dust and other such particles. 


Though the pleated air filters are definitely better than the non-pleated air filters, there are some other factors that you need to consider before buying a filter for your air conditioner. Check the type of filter that is suitable for your system, the air quality inside your home, pricing, and the change schedule of the filters that you can follow. It is always better to make an informed decision when it comes to something as important as the air you breathe and your air conditioner, which does not come cheap. Know the differences and benefits of different air filters for your air conditioner before making any decision.

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