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How to Select the Right MERV Rating for Your Furnace Filter

Figuring out the correct MERV rating for your furnace filter can be difficult. There are  various types of filters to use, and it might be hard to find the filter that best fits your needs. We’re here to help. Barlow Service Experts is your local HVAC Expert in Wasatch Front, helping you make smart decisions for your home.

Identifying the right furnace filter is all about matching indoor air quality with an HVAC system’s capabilities. Getting filters with the right MERV ratings is critical to making sure the air indoors is clean and healthy without overworking your HVAC system.

What Does MERV Stand For?

A minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV, is a measurement system created by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). MERV ratings signify an air filter’s effectiveness at decreasing airborne particles and pollutants. A filter’s rating is determined by the smallest particle it’s capable of trapping (measured in microns). As filters become better at improving indoor air quality, their MERV rating goes up, ranging from 1 to 20.

Below, you will see a chart that can help you determine the recommended MERV rating for a variety of settings.

 

MERV Range  Controlled Contaminants  Typical Application  Air Filter Types 
1-4  Pollen, Dust, Spray Paint, Dust Mites, Sanding Dust, Textile & Carpet Fibers  Residential, Window AC Units  Disposable Electrostatic 
5-8  Mold Spores, Pet Dander, Hair Spray, Dusting Aids, Fabric Protector, Cement Dust, Pudding Mix  Better Residential, Commercial, Industrial Workplaces  Pleated Filters Cartridge Filters Electrostatic 
9-12  Legionella, Auto Emissions, Lead Dust, Humidifier Dust, Welding Fumes  Superior Residential, Better Commercial, Hospital Labs  Pleated Filters Cartridge Filters 
13-16  Bacteria, Droplet Nuclei (Sneeze), Tobacco Smoke, Insecticide Dust  General Surgery, Hospital Inpatient Care  Bag Filters  

Box Filters 

17-20  Viruses, All Combustion Smoke, Carbon Dust  Cleanrooms, Radioactive & Carcinogenic Materials, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing  HEPA Filters Specialized Filters 

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Other Measurement Systems

Knowing about MERV ratings isn’t always enough when you need to buy a furnace filter. For example, some big retailers use the filter performance rating (FPR), which goes from 1-10 and measures a filter’s ability to trap large and small particles. You might also see the microparticle performance rating (MPR) system, which goes from 300 to 2200 and measures a filter’s effectiveness at trapping only the smallest particles on the MERV scale (0.3-1 microns in size).

Explore the chart below for more details about how filters ranked with FPR and MPR stack up to the more conventional MERV rating system.

 

MERV Rating  FPR  MPR 
MERV 1-5  Below Minimum FPR  Below Minimum MPR 
MERV 6  Below Minimum FPR  MPR 300 
MERV 8  FPR 5  MPR 600 
MERV 11  FPR 7  MPR 1000-1200 
MERV 13  FPR 10  MPR 1500-1900 
MERV 14-20  Above Maximum FPR  MPR 1900+ 

 

What Should My Furnace Filter’s MERV Rating Be?

Selecting the ideal MERV rating for an air filter is a delicate balance between an HVAC system’s capabilities and the indoor air quality you want to have.

For example, a better MERV rating won’t always mean that a filter is the right option for your furnace. In fact, as MERV ratings go up, air flow goes down—forcing your HVAC system to work harder to move air through your furnace, increasing the possibility of a potential breakdown. Before purchasing a new furnace filter, make sure to check if your HVAC system has a limit for MERV rating. If it has one, be sure to get a furnace filter with a MERV rating below your system’s limit.

If a family member has allergies or serious respiratory problems like asthma, you may want to get filters with stronger MERV ratings. Don’t forget, there are always other solutions out there to improve your indoor air quality if your system can’t accommodate the MERV ratings you need.

In general, our recommended MERV rating for furnace filters runs from 6 to 8 for a great balance between top furnace efficiency and home comfort.

Choosing the correct MERV rating for a furnace filter has a major impact on your indoor air quality, your HVAC system and, most important, your family’s well-being. Let Barlow Service Experts help you make the best decision. We have a full line of air filtration solutions plus our Expert knowledge and service—and we’re available 24/7 for emergencies. Contact us at 801-436-8985 to request your indoor air quality consultation in Wasatch Front today!

Air inside your home can be more polluted than the air outside—often two to five times more, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

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