Fiberglass vs Pleated Air Filters | A Comparative Analysis

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Make Filtration a First Priority!

Great air quality is a top priority in an office or warehouse, especially for facility temperatures and employees that rely on clean air. Two popular disposable air filter options that are used in HVAC systems are Fiberglass and Pleated. They may be used in similar environments, but it is important to understand what makes the two different and when either can be used. This article looks to answer those questions as well as what are the benefits of each filter type.

Fiberglass or Pleated: Clearing the Confusion

Two popular disposable air filter choices that customers turn to are fiberglass and pleated. Because both are under the umbrella of being disposable, it is possible that customers can be confused on which one to use or what either are.

Disposable air filters are filters that can be easily replaced and work to filter out contaminants of different sizes like dust, pet dander, dust mites and more. One benefit of having a disposable air filter is its ability to be easily installed, removed and disposed of.

Some of the main differences between fiberglass and pleated air filters are material of the filter and frame, how the filter fibers are arranged to capture certain contaminants, what their MERV Ratings are, reliability and much more that are important to understand.

What Are Fiberglass Air Filters?

Disposable fiberglass air filters are filters that are built with microglass fibers and a rigid chipboard frame for stability and easy installation. They are a great choice against larger particles of dirt and lint as well as smaller contaminants like pollen, dust and other foreign particles. Additionally, this type of disposable air filter can operate at temperatures up to 300° F.

Large particles are easily caught in the front fibers of the filter, and if smaller particles are able to get through, the deeper part of the filter is able to capture them. This is due to the filter's progressive density and how the microglass material is put together. Fiberglass air filters are a popular choice for applications working with dust.

This type of filter is a popular choice in a wide variety of facilities, including industrial, commercial, restaurant, school and office buildings. When creating fiberglass filters, an adhesive is added to keep the fibers from breaking off of the filter and getting into the airstream. When looking at MERV Ratings and their effectiveness with capturing airborne particles and contaminants, fiberglass filters rate between 1 and 4.

Disposable Fiberglass Air FilterDisposable Fiberglass Air Filter

What Are Pleated Air Filters?

When it comes to pleated disposable air filters, there are some noticable things that make them different than fiberglass filters. The main one being that with pleated filters are able to provide greater surface area filtration due to the larger area on the face of the filter. A larger surface area allows a pleated filter to collect and hold more contaminants. Pleated air filters have a larger MERV rating than fiberglass options, allowing for better filtration of smaller contaminants and particles.

Pleated disposable air filters are made of a couple of different materials: synthetic, charcoal/carbon and even some options made of fiberglass. It is important to point out it is how the fibers are stitched together that make it pleated.

Synthetic Pleated Air Filters

Some pleated air filters are made of synthetic material. Their increased surface area (measured at about a 95% open face) allow for an easier collection of small pollutants (pollen and pet dander) and well as larger ones (dirt, dust and allergen debris). The synthetic material is also able to inhibit bacterial and mold growth.

The frame is made of a kraft material that is both heavy duty and moisture resistant. Additionally, pleated air filters are made with a metal grid to avoid corrosion and rust to the HVAC system. These filters have a MERV rating between 8 and 13, higher in comparison to fiberglass air filters. They are a popular choice for home and commercial air handling units, rooftop units and more.

Synthetic Pleated Disposable Air FilterSynthetic Pleated Disposable Air Filter

Charcoal/Carbon Pleated Air Filters

Charcoal air filters are made of a carbon synthetic material. They are a popular choice for catching dust, dirt, lint and other airborne particles. For stability, they are made with a water-resistant beverage board frame. There are eight grams of carbon per sq. ft added to each filter, designed to collect gasses, grease and bad odor from the air.

These air filters have a MERV rating between 1 and 4.

Charcoal/Carbon Pleated Air FilterCharcoal/Carbon Pleated Air Filter

Fiberglass Pleated Air Filters

The pleated fiberglass air filter options are created in a galvanized steel frame with a metal wire grid and have a maximum operating temperature of 500° F. They are a great choice for filtration applications with elevated operating temperatures.

Pleated fiberglass air filters have a MERV rating between 8 and 13.

Pleated Fiberglass Air FilterPleated Fiberglass Air Filter

Fiberglass & Pleated Differences

There are some key differences that stand out between fiberglass air filters and pleated air filters.

A signficant one being the difference in MERV ratings. This is primarily due to the fact that they are made of different materials and have different depths. The higher the MERV rating with an air filter, the higher the effectiveness when looking at small contaminants. For example, fiberglass air filters are designed to have a MERV rating between 1 and 4. Pleated air filters, primarily ones made of synthetic and fiberglass material, have higher MERV ratings between 8 and 13.

Another difference between the two filters is around costs. Pleated air filters are made of a stronger material and stitching. Additionally, A higher MERV rating attached to a pleated air filter means there are higher pressure drops. This means that there is more air force required for any air to pass through the filter. Both of these translate to higher operating costs. Alternatively, when looking at fiberglass air filters, the material is not as durable, hence why they are known as disposable options.

Fiberglass & Pleated Filter Benefits

Fiberglass air filters are known as a popular economic choice due to the delicate fiberglass material. Fiberglass air filters get dense as particles go deep into the filter. The chipboard frame allows the filter to remain stable, allowing for easy installation and removal.

Pleated air filters have a higher MERV ratings in comparison to fiberglass filters, allowing for better filtration for small particles. With the pleated design, kraft frame and metal grid, 95% of contaminants are captured through the filter. Because of the material and pleated design, they can last longer, with the possibilty of saving money over time in comparison to fiberglass options. Pleated air filters can operate at high temperatures, with some options being both rust and moisture resistant.

Disposable Filter Comparison

Component Material MERV Frame Applications Contaminants
MERV 1 to 4
Industrial, Commercial, Restaurant, School and Office Buildings Dust & Lint
MERV 1 to 4
Beverage Board
Home and Commercial Air Handling Units, Rooftop Units
Dust & Lint
MERV 8 to 13
Home and Commercial Air Handling Units, Rooftop Units

MERV 8: Dust & Lint, Pollen, Dust Mites, Mold

*MERV 10

**MERV 13

MERV 8 to 13
Home and Commercial Air Handling Units, Rooftop Units

MERV 8: Dust & Lint, Pollen, Dust Mites, Mold

*MERV 10

**MERV 13


*MERV 10 filters collect MERV 8 contaminants in addition to: Pet Dander, Smoke, Smog, Cough and Sneeze Particles

**MERV 13 filters collect MERV 8 and MERV 10 contaminants in addition to: Viruses and Bacteria

Shop Our Collection of Fiberglass or Pleated Air Filters!

Have you figured out which filter works best for your system and facility? Need more information about our wide collection of filters? Want to find the right size air filter? As industrial filtration experts, we are here to help! Check out our variety of air filters, including fiberglass and pleated options.

For more questions on HVAC systems, filters and more, email our specialists at for more information or give us a call at 630-629-6600 today!