Understanding the Differences Between MERV Ratings

Air Filter MERV Rating
Thu, 01/09/2020 - 9:00am / By christina

Understanding the Differences Between MERV Ratings

Pick up an air filter at the hardware store and you may notice that it has a "MERV" rating on it. You may be wondering "What is MERV?" It's a rating system developed by ASHRAE to provide consumers with a way to measure air filter efficiency. It's important to understand exactly what MERV is and what the different ratings mean.

MERV means Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It's a measurement of how efficiently the filter removes particles of different sizes. The scale runs from 1 to 16, with 1 being the least efficient and 16 the most efficient.

MERV 1 to 4

The primary use for filters with a MERV rating between 1 and 4 is to keep the inside of the HVAC system clean. They capture dust mites, pollen, and other harmful particulates. The capture have less than 20% dust spot efficiency, so they don't do much for air quality and cleanliness. They are the cheapest option available on the market.

MERV 5 to 8

These filters capture more air-borne particulates such as mold spores and fine dust. Their dust spot efficiency is between 20% and 35%, so they offer higher air filtration compared to the MERV 1 to 4 filters. They are a little more expensive, but offer a good balance between budget and air filtration.

MERV 9 to 12

Filters with a MERV rating between 9 and 12 capture much smaller particulates, including pet dander and auto emissions. It provides efficient air filtration with a spot dust efficiency between 35% and 75%. They are a good option for anyone dealing with mild to moderate allergies or respiratory issues like asthma. They keep the interior of the HVAC system free from debris build-up. They are more expensive than lower rated filters.

MERV 13 to 16

A filter with a MERV rating between 13 and 16 is the most efficient air filter that is not HEPA rated. They are great for anyone with allergies or asthma. They offer optimal protection against dust, mold, pollen, bacteria, and even viruses. The downside to these filters is the price. They get more expensive the higher you go on the scale.

Increasing the MERV rating on your HVAC air filter can improve the air quality in your home. Plus, it can protect your heating and cooling systems from damage caused by dust build-up.

Before you upgrade your filter, however, it's smart to talk with an HVAC professional at Command Services Center. Older systems may not be able to handle the higher MERV rating filters. We are happy to advise you on which filter is best for your system.


Need to request a service appointment? Contact Command Service Center at (847) 558-7780 or use our online form to get started today!