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All homes have indoor air pollutants. These unwanted air particles are typically too small to see with the naked eye, but their adverse effects can be felt. Families concerned about indoor air quality should ensure that the filters are replaced regularly. Some can follow the manufacturer’s recommended schedule, but it is best to conduct monthly checks. There are homes that need to replace their HVAC air filters more frequently than the manufacturer’s recommendations. Ensure that the filters are compatible with the system and your needs as well. Check the MERV rating of the filter to determine which is the best match. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the MERV rating, a crucial factor to consider when buying HVAC filters.

What Is A MERV Rating?

Buying air filters can be a confusing task if you haven’t done it before. Virtually all products will say that they are the best. Conduct some research, and you will find out which ones are off the mark. Attempt to understand the specifications and familiarize yourself with what the numbers mean. You will encounter terms like “MERV,” which is the acronym of Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The MERV is an essential indicator of the ability of an air filter to trap unwanted particles. Air filters with a high MERV rating mean they have better filtration capacity.

How MERV Ratings Work

disposable hvac air filters

The MERV rating ranges from 1 to 20. You would generally get a higher rating, but some applications need a mid-scale MERV rating. For instance, demanding structures like hospitals, cleanrooms, and nuclear power plants often require air filters with a MERV rating of 16 to 20. On the other hand, most homes usually need filters rated from MERV 5 to 13. Filters with a rating below MERV 5 will not be adequate in maintaining good indoor air quality, while those rated above MERV 13 might compromise the performance of your residential HVAC system.

How Is MERV Rating Determined?

Filters go through rigorous tests to find out their MERV rating. The process presents several particles in three various size ranges, including:

These particles are invisible to our eyes because we cannot identify particles smaller than 40 microns. As a comparison, human hair has a diameter of around 50 microns. The good news is that sensitive laboratory equipment can detect them. The tiny particles are sprayed through the filters and counted after. The worst test score determines the MERV, as this rating is meant to measure the filter’s “minimum efficiency.” A product should catch 95% or more of the particles to qualify as a MERV 16 filter.

MERV & Your Indoor Air Quality

Your family’s health and comfort are significantly affected by the indoor air quality. Consider converting to a filter with a higher MERV score if you experience frequent allergic reactions. This way, the filter can remove more air pollutants, reducing common allergy symptoms. Moreover, the home occupants will also complain less about headaches, rashes, runny nose, eye irritation, sore throat, and persistent sneezing. The filter upgrade also serves as a protection from damage caused by bacteria and dust. There are fewer periods of illness, and contagions are avoided. A high-MERV filter is also highly beneficial if you live with someone who has a weak immune system.

Your Energy Use & MERV Ratings

Air filters require smaller holes to catch more airborne particles. The openings get smaller as time passes, making it difficult for air to pass through. As a result, the HVAC system will use more energy to operate well. This is the reason it isn’t recommended to use a MERV 20 filter in homes not built to deal with this filtration level. Energy bills will spike, and HVAC systems might suffer from an early breakdown unless you make adjustments. Filters for residential use tend to be between MERV 8 and 13. They are sufficient in the maintenance of decent air quality in your home without drastically increasing your energy expenses. If you are unsure of the type of HVAC filter that best fits your home, you can consult a professional HVAC contractor.

How Your HVAC Air Filter Impacts The Condition of Your HVAC System

dirty hvac air filter

All forced-air HVAC systems come with a recommended air filter MERV rating. Therefore, homeowners should closely follow the recommended values to prevent undesirable complexities. Low-rated filters might be cheaper, but they can result in expensive system problems down the road. These air filters do not have enough capacity to catch pollutants. Dust and bacteria will accumulate in the ductwork. Moreover, HVAC system efficiency will drop while maintenance prices will rise. On the other hand, going beyond the recommended rating will decrease airflow, quicken wear, and shorten the system’s service life.

Should I Buy Filters With High MERV Ratings?

People are often drawn to higher ratings when it comes to hotel designations, product reviews, and others. This mostly leads to better experiences, but it isn’t true at all times. Higher doesn’t always translate to better where it concerns MERV ratings. Filters with a high MERV score might be better at trapping bacteria, pollen, and pet hair. However, they also stop air from moving at ideal speeds throughout the heating and cooling system. Poor airflow can spike energy consumption, increase monthly costs, and reduce indoor comfort. Compatibility is crucial, so you need to match the system with the most fitting air filters.

What MERV Rating Should My Filter Have?

Every heating and cooling system is unique, so it can be a challenge to make exact recommendations. Check the owner’s manual about this matter. Most homes should do well with a filter rated between MERV 8 and 13. They can remove most of the undesired particles without burdening the system. You can get better results with all components working well together. When your home has few occupants and pets, a MERV 8 filter should be enough. However, a MERV 11 filter is better suited in a house with more people and some pets. A MERV 13 filter might be needed if there are people with a weak immune system in the home for their health and well-being.


It is crucial to consider the MERV rating when selecting air filters. It is an indication of the worst-case performance when the product is met with microscopic impurities. Low ratings are unwanted since they are inadequate for air cleaning. Highly-rated filters aren’t necessarily ideal because they can cause adverse impacts on incompatible systems. Mid-range filters with MERV 8 to 13 ratings do well for most homes. However, the best one still depends on each unique home.

Call Tower Energy For All Of Your HVAC Requirements

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Tower Energy provides outstanding HVAC services throughout Hartford County, Connecticut. We have highly skilled and the best professionally certified technicians who can conduct excellent heating and cooling tune-ups, installations, repairs, and replacements. Each of our friendly techs has the right tools, extensive knowledge, and years of experience to service any HVAC system correctly.

Our company has the most affordable HVAC service prices in the locality. Rest assured, our maintenance services can improve your comfort, indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and more while reducing your home’s energy costs. When you need to replace or repair your HVAC system, we can recommend the best solution that best fits your home and budget. We back all of our work with a guarantee. Book your next service appointment and give Tower Energy a call today. We offer free, in-home estimates.

Contact us now or call us at (860) 677-7347 to find out more.