If you’ve ever taken some time to research the different types of filters on the market, you might have been overwhelmed by your options. Air filters come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and it can be hard to know if you’re choosing the one that’s best for your home and your HVAC system. MERV ratings are designed to help homeowners with that decision. So what exactly is a MERV rating and how can you use it to choose the right filter for your home?

What is a MERV rating?

MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value. It is a measurement of the efficiency of an air filter. In other words, it is a number that describes how effective an air filter is at removing particles from your home’s air.

The higher the MERV rating of a given filter, the more effective it is at removing airborne particles. Knowing this, you’d think that the best filter for your home is the one with the highest MERV rating. But as you’ll see below, things aren’t that simple.

MERV rating categories:

  • MERV 1-4: These are the least expensive (and least efficient) filters on the market. They will help protect your HVAC system from damage by removing a portion of the large particles in your air, but they don’t do anything to improve indoor air quality.
  • MERV 5-8: These typically come in the form of 1- or 2-inch pleated filters. Not only can they remove more particles than less efficient filters, but they can also remove smaller particles like mold and pet dander that can aggravate symptoms of asthma and allergies.
  • MERV 9-12: Filters in this category are typically deep-pleated filters that can capture even more and even smaller particles than filters in the first two categories. However, in some homes this can come at a price. That’s because filters in this range slow down the air flow to your HVAC system. Before installing one of these filters, you’ll want to make sure that your HVAC system is powerful enough to overcome that loss of airflow.
  • MERV 13-16: Filters in this category are often found in commercial buildings such as hospitals, but are not very common in homes. If you want to match the performance of filters in this range, you’d be better off installing a whole house air cleaner (see below).

Beyond MERV ratings: Whole house air cleaners

A whole house air cleaner can match (and exceed) the performance of the best filters on the market without restricting airflow to your HVAC system. This makes them the preferable choice for anyone who wants the healthiest indoor air possible without sacrificing energy-efficiency.

If you have any questions about the MERV rating of an air filter, or if you’d like an HVAC system serviced or installed in your home, contact Hyde’s, your Indio, CA, heating and air conditioning company.