How to Select the Right MERV Rating for Your Furnace Filter

Determining the right MERV rating for your furnace filter can be difficult. There are various types of filters to use, and it might be hard to select a filter that best fits your needs. We’re here to help. Barlow Service Experts is your local HVAC Expert in the Wasatch Front region, assisting you in making informed decisions for your home.

Getting the right furnace filter is all about matching indoor air quality with your HVAC system’s capabilities. Getting filters with the right MERV ratings is critical to ensuring your air is well-filtered without overly taxing your HVAC system.

What Does MERV Mean?

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

Below, you will find a chart that can help you determine the necessary MERV rating for a variety of applications.

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

Other Measurement Systems

Knowing about MERV ratings might not be enough when the time comes to purchase your furnace filter. For example, some major retailers use the filter performance rating (FPR), which goes from 1-10 and measures a filter’s ability to capture large and small particles. You might also come across 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).

You can use the chart below to better understand how filters ranked with FPR and MPR compare to the more standard 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?

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

For example, a higher MERV rating doesn’t always mean that a filter is the best choice for your furnace. In fact, as MERV rating increases, air flow decreases—forcing your HVAC system to work harder to move air through your furnace, increasing the likelihood of a potential breakdown. Before purchasing a new furnace filter, be sure to check if your HVAC system has a maximum MERV rating. If it has one, be sure to get a furnace filter with a MERV rating below your system’s limit.

If your family has allergy problems or serious respiratory problems like asthma, you may want to invest in filters with higher MERV ratings. Remember, there are always other options out there to improve your indoor air quality if your system can’t handle the MERV ratings you require.

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

Selecting the right MERV rating for your furnace filter has a major impact on your indoor air quality, your HVAC system and, most important, your family’s health. Let Barlow Service Experts help you make a smart decision. We have a full line of air filtration options plus our Expert knowledge and service—and we’re available 24 hours a day for emergencies. Contact us at 866-397-3787 to request your indoor air quality consultation in the Wasatch Front region today!