What's Your Air Filter MERV Rating? Understanding the Different Ratings and Their Meanings

Do you know what MERV stands for when it comes to air filters? It stands for "Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value," and understanding this rating is crucial for the health and safety of your home. With so many different ratings available, it can be overwhelming to know which one is right for your air filter needs. But fear not! We're here to break it down for you.

If you're interested in improving the air quality in your home, then understanding MERV ratings is a must. From MERV 1 to MERV 20, these ratings describe how efficient the filter is at trapping airborne particles. The higher the rating, the more efficient the filter is at capturing smaller particles like pollen, dust, pet dander, and even bacteria and viruses.

Don't settle for an air filter that is not right for your home. Take control of your indoor air quality by understanding the different MERV ratings and their meanings. Whether you're a homeowner or renter, this knowledge will empower you to make informed decisions when it comes to air filters and keep your home healthy and safe.

Understanding MERV Ratings and Their Importance

MERV ratings are an important factor to consider when selecting an air filter for your home or business. These ratings help determine how effective the air filter is at capturing different types and sizes of particles that may be present in the air.

The MERV, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, rating system ranges from 1 to 20, with a higher number indicating a higher level of filtration. For residential and commercial use, air filters with a MERV rating of at least 8 are recommended to capture common indoor pollutants, including dust, pollen, and mold spores. However, for maximum filtration and protection against more harmful pollutants such as bacteria and viruses, a MERV rating of 13 or higher is recommended.

It is important to note that a higher MERV rating may also result in a decrease in airflow and potentially higher energy costs. It is recommended to consult with a professional to determine the appropriate MERV rating for your specific needs and HVAC system.

In addition to selecting an appropriate MERV rating, it is also important to regularly replace air filters as recommended by the manufacturer. A dirty or clogged air filter can reduce the effectiveness of filtration and potentially cause damage to your HVAC system.

In conclusion, understanding MERV ratings and selecting an appropriate air filter can improve indoor air quality and protect against harmful pollutants. Regularly replacing air filters and consulting with a professional for guidance can also help ensure optimal filtration and HVAC system performance.

How to Choose the Right MERV Rating for Your Home

Now that you understand the different MERV ratings and their meanings, it's time to figure out which one is right for your home. Here are a few factors to consider:

1. Indoor air quality concerns: If you have allergies, asthma, or other respiratory issues, you may want to opt for a higher MERV rating to capture more airborne particles and improve your indoor air quality.

2. Lifestyle factors: If you have pets, smoke in the house, or live in an area with high levels of pollution, you'll want to choose a higher MERV rating to capture those pollutants and provide cleaner air for your family.

3. HVAC system compatibility: Before you choose a higher MERV rating, check your HVAC system's specifications to make sure it can handle the increased air resistance that comes with a tighter filter. Using a filter with too high of a MERV rating can damage your HVAC system and reduce its lifespan.

4. Budget considerations: Higher MERV rated filters typically cost more than lower-rated options, so it's important to determine how much you're willing to spend on air filters each year.

Overall, choosing the right MERV rating for your home involves balancing indoor air quality concerns, lifestyle factors, HVAC system compatibility, and budget considerations. It's important to do your research and choose a filter that meets your specific needs.

The Pros and Cons of High-Efficiency Air Filters

High-efficiency air filters are becoming increasingly popular, and for a good reason. These filters capture more small particles, pollutants, and allergens than traditional filters. While high-efficiency air filters have many benefits, they also come with some drawbacks to consider before you upgrade your filters. Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of high-efficiency air filters.


Better indoor air quality: High-efficiency air filters capture more pollutants, dust, and allergens, resulting in cleaner, healthier air. This is especially important for individuals with allergies or respiratory problems.

Energy savings: High-efficiency air filters can improve your HVAC system's overall efficiency, resulting in lower energy bills.

Improved system performance: High-efficiency air filters can also help improve your HVAC system's performance, reducing wear and tear, and prolonging its lifespan.


Higher cost: High-efficiency air filters cost more than traditional filters, which can lead to increased maintenance costs over time.

More frequent replacement: High-efficiency air filters require more frequent replacement than traditional filters due to their higher capture rate. This can also lead to higher maintenance costs.

Reduced air flow: High-efficiency air filters can restrict air flow, which can cause your HVAC system to work harder and less efficiently. This can lead to higher energy bills and potentially reduce the lifespan of your system.

While there are pros and cons to high-efficiency air filters, they can provide numerous benefits when implemented correctly. Consider your specific needs, budget, and HVAC system when deciding on whether to upgrade to a high-efficiency air filter.

The Impact of MERV Ratings on Air Flow and HVAC Systems

While air filters with higher MERV ratings effectively remove more contaminants from the air, they can also negatively impact air flow and HVAC systems. This is because the denser filter material can restrict the amount of air that flows through the filter and into the system.

As the MERV rating increases, the filter becomes more efficient at capturing smaller particles, but also increasingly resistant to airflow. This can cause your HVAC system to work harder and run less efficiently, which can lead to higher energy bills and even system failure.

To combat this issue, it's important to choose an air filter with an appropriate MERV rating for your HVAC system. Consult with a professional to determine the optimal rating for your specific system, as choosing a filter with too high of a MERV rating can actually do more harm than good.

In addition, regularly changing your air filter is crucial for maintaining the proper flow of air. A clogged filter will not only reduce efficiency, but can also cause damage to your HVAC system.

Remember, choosing the right MERV rating for your air filter and regularly changing it can help ensure optimal air flow and prevent potential damage to your HVAC system.

Maintaining Your Air Filter to Ensure Maximum Efficiency

Now that you know the importance of choosing the right MERV rating for your air filter, it's equally important to make sure that your filter is properly maintained. A dirty or clogged filter can drastically reduce the airflow and filter efficiency of your HVAC system, leading to poor indoor air quality and higher energy bills.

Here are some tips for maintaining your air filter:

Check your filter regularly: It is recommended to check your filter at least once a month and replace it every 3 months, or sooner depending on your usage and environmental factors such as pets, allergies, and smoking.

Clean or replace as needed: If the filter appears dirty or clogged, it's time to replace it. Some filters can be washed or vacuumed, but make sure to read the manufacturer's instructions first.

Install the filter correctly: Make sure to install the filter in the correct direction, with the arrow pointing towards the airflow, to maximize its performance.

Upgrade to a higher MERV rating: If you have been using a low MERV rating and notice that your filter gets dirty quickly, consider upgrading to a higher rating for better filtration and longer lifespan.

Keep the area around the filter clean: Dust and debris around the filter can get sucked into the system and reduce the filter's effectiveness. Make sure to clean the surrounding area and vacuum any dust or debris regularly.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your air filter is working efficiently and effectively to improve your indoor air quality and save you money on energy bills.


It is essential to know your air filter's MERV rating to ensure that you are providing your home with the best possible air quality. It means that your air filter can capture and filter out tiny particles, providing you and your family with a healthy and clean environment. Remember, higher MERV ratings do not necessarily mean better quality, and you should always check the manufacturer's recommendations for the optimal air filter for your system. With a better understanding of MERV ratings, you can make an informed decision about choosing the best air filter for your HVAC system and enjoy the benefits of clean and breathable air.

Frequently Asked Question

MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value - a scale created by ASHRAE to measure the effectiveness of filters in removing different sized particles. For example, a MERV-13 filter is designed to catch 90% of particles 3-10 µm in size, 85% of particles 1-3 µm in size (PM2.5), and 50% of particles 0.3-1 µm in size. Generally, filters with higher MERV ratings are better at catching higher percentages of particles, including the smaller ones.

When you install a filter in the airstream, it will create resistance. The amount of resistance depends on the type of filter material and the amount of area it covers. Standard fiberglass filters don’t generate much resistance, though it increases as the filter gets dirtier. To remove more pollutants from the air, you can use a filter with a different material such as a high MERV filter. These filters have smaller pores, which allow them to catch more pollutants, but also create higher resistance.

The problem with this is that the blower and furnace are only designed to handle a certain amount of pressure drop. Too much resistance means the air flow is low, making the heat exchanger get hotter and potentially crack. On the plus side, low air flow can result in better dehumidification in humid climates, as long as the air flow isn’t so low that it turns the condensate to ice.

So, the answer to the question is: yes, higher MERV filters are better, but you need to find the right balance between air flow, resistance, and effectiveness.

Air filters are designed to capture airborne particles, which can be anything from dust and pollen to mold spores and bacteria. The filter works by drawing air through itself and trapping the particles in the web of fibers that make up the filter.

What are the types of air filters

There are many different types of air filters available on the market. The type of filter you need will depend on the specific needs of your facility. Some common types of air filters include MERV, HEPA, activated carbon, and ultraviolet (UV) germicidal irradiation.

MERV: MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. MERV ratings range from MERV-0 to MERV-16. The higher the MERV rating, the more efficient the filter is at capturing particles.

HEPA: HEPA filters are a type of air filter that is designed to capture very small particles. A true HEPA filter has a MERV rating of 17-20.

Activated carbon: Activated carbon filters are designed to remove gases and odors from the air.

UV germicidal irradiation: UV germicidal irradiation is a type of light that is used to kill bacteria and viruses.

There are pleated filters and panel filters. MERV 13 filters are pleated, while MERV 16 filters can be either pleated or panel. Pleated filters have more surface area because they are made up of multiple layers of filter media. The pleats create more space for the air to flow through, and the more layers of filter media there are, the more particles can be captured.

HEPA filters are usually pleated, but they can also be panel.

What are the differences between MERV 13 vs HEPA filters

While MERV 13 and HEPA filters both remove particles from the air, they work in different ways.

MERV 13 filters are designed to remove particles that are larger than 0.30 microns, while HEPA filters are designed to remove particles that are smaller than 0.30 microns. MERV 13 filters are often used in commercial and industrial settings, while HEPA filters are often used in hospitals and other medical settings.

MERV 13 filters are more efficient at removing large particles from the air, while HEPA filters are more efficient at removing small particles from the air. MERV 13 filters can remove up to 99.97% of particles from the air, while HEPA filters can remove up to 99.99% of particles from the air.

MERV 13 filters are less expensive than HEPA filters, and they can be used in a wider variety of settings. However, HEPA filters are more effective at removing small particles from the air, and they can be used in settings where MERV 13 filters cannot.

MERV and HEPA filters both work to capture airborne particles, but they do so in different ways. MERV 13 filters are designed to capture particles larger than 0.30 microns, while HEPA filters are designed to capture particles smaller than 0.30 microns. MERV 13 filters are more efficient at removing large particles from the air, while HEPA filters are better at capturing small particles. 

MERV 13 filters are less expensive and can be used in a wider variety of settings, but they can only remove up to 99.97% of particles from the air. On the other hand, HEPA filters are more expensive but can remove up to 99.99% of particles, making them ideal for medical settings. In short, MERV 13 filters are great for everyday use, while HEPA filters are better for specialized environments.

Your HVAC system includes a furnace, air conditioner, or heat pump. It's essential to keep these systems clean and efficient by regularly replacing the air filters. To do this, you'll need to know about MERV ratings.

The air filter in your HVAC system serves two key functions: it protects your system from dust, and it helps clean the air in your home. When the filter is clogged, dust can build up in the system, and the equipment may overheat and fail.

How often the air filter needs to be changed depends on your home's size, where you live, and if you have pets. Inspect it every month, and replace it when you can't see the filter material through the dust.

When choosing an air filter, refer to the specifications of your HVAC system to determine the size. The MERV scale is used to measure the filter's ability to remove particles from the air, and ratings range from 1 to 20, with lower ratings meaning lower-quality filters.

Remember to balance air cleaning with air flow when upgrading your filter to a higher MERV rating. Too dense of a filter can cause air flow restriction and harm your system. Ask your HVAC technician for advice when in doubt.

Replacing the air filter is easy. Open the blower compartment located between the air return and the furnace or air handler. Put the used filter in a plastic bag, then insert the new filter with the arrows pointing in the direction of the airflow.

MERV 11 filters used to be thought of as air flow restrictors, but this is no longer necessarily the case. Home Energy's 2009 experimental test concluded that the pressure drop of high-MERV filters isn't as severe as it used to be. If you're renting and don't have any special needs, then a standard, cheap fiberglass filter with a cardboard frame is fine to use every three months. But if you own your home, then it's worth investing in a more durable filter.

Pleated filters with more pleats per foot are the better option and should be more effective at improving indoor air quality. However, the price can be an issue. A standard 16x25x1 11 MERV filter will cost around $5, but you can save a bit if you buy them in packs of 12. Filtrete, Purolator, and Nordic Pure are all trusted brands.

If you plan to buy washable filters, be aware that cheaper models may have loose filter media after washing and won't perform as well. Disposable filters are also more hygienic since they remove all the dirt from the air. Keep in mind that the more pleats per foot, the better the filter will be.

So, when it comes to MERV 11, the issue of air flow restriction isn't as big as it used to be. With the right filter, you can improve your indoor air quality without having to worry about a pressure drop. Make sure to replace your filter every three months for the best performance.

MERV ratings are used to compare filters to determine which is most effective for eliminating pollutants in a home or office. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) developed the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) system to measure how well an air filter captures common airborne particles. There are 16 MERV values, ranging from 1 to 16, and the efficiency increases with the MERV number.

Filters are tested against 12 size ranges of particles, with the smallest being around 0.3 microns and the largest around 10 microns. To give a sense of the size, a micron is one millionth of a meter and a strand of human hair is approximately 75 to 100 microns.

The MERV rating is determined by measuring the particle count upstream and downstream of the filter being tested over six intervals, beginning with a clean filter. Afterward, a special ASHRAE test dust is added for five additional measurement cycles. The filter’s performance is determined by calculating the particle density before and after passing through the filter, and then assigning a MERV rating.

The MERV 8 filter is the most common filter in the U.S. Understanding how MERV ratings work can help you understand why it's so popular and how to choose the most beneficial filter for your needs.