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What do MERV Ratings Mean?

What do MERV Ratings Mean?

Your HVAC system maintenance routine should include regular filter replacement. Using the correct filters can extend the life of your system and keep your home free of dust and allergens. How do you know which filter is the right filter for your home?

If you examine your filters, you may find that they list a MERV rating number. This rating indicates the effectiveness of a filter at catching particles when air is passed through it. MERV stands for “minimum efficiency reporting value,” and the rating on your filter indicates how much it cleans the air running through your system. While it may seem like you want the highest number possible, there are good reasons to use the recommended filter for your system.

Higher MERV ratings mean a more dense material is used for the filter. It is more effective at trapping particles, but it can be difficult to push air through these filters. Lower-rated filters trap less, but air can flow more freely through them. When using a system that is powerful, a denser filter can be used, but for many homes, a lower-rated filter can be the best choice.

Using a too-dense filter can harm your home’s system. Because it is more difficult to push air through a highly-rated filter, it can wear out your system more quickly, and require more frequent maintenance and repairs. In addition to stressing your HVAC system, it also reduced your energy efficiency, and can raise your power bills. Using the wrong filter can cost you considerably in the long run.

Many systems allow you to use filters within a range of ratings. A lower rating may be fine, but if your home has pets or allergy sufferers living there, a higher rating in the acceptable range may benefit you. Consider your needs for a system and choose your filter accordingly. MERV ratings range from 1-20. Different settings require different ratings, such as:

  • MERV 1-4: Residential systems. These can filter dust, pollen, dust mites, carpet fibers, and insects.
  • MERV 5-8: Commercial and industrial systems. These can filter finer dust particles, mold spores, aerosol sprays, and pet dander.
  • MERV 9-12: Commercial systems and hospital laboratories. These can filter automotive emissions, lead dust, larger bacteria, and welding fumes.
  • MERV 13-16: Surgical centers and smoking lounges. These can filter a range of bacteria, smoke particles, particles from sneezing, and oil droplets.
  • MERV 17-20: Clean rooms for pharmaceuticals and electronics manufacturing. These can filter carbon dust, viruses, and the smallest smoke particles.

Filters can trap a variety of contaminants, and deciding what rating fits your needs can be difficult. Contact your local HVAC service provider for help choosing your filters, and be sure to schedule regular maintenance to keep your system going strong.

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