The MERV-Rated Air Filter: A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to air filters, most people only have a vague understanding of what they are and what they do. In fact, many people don't even realize that there is more than one type of air filter. But anyone with a use for an air filtration system has likely heard of MERV ratings before. So, what do they actually mean? And more importantly, which filter is right for you?

In this comprehensive guide, we'll break down everything you need to know about MERV ratings so that you can make the best decision for your home or office. Keep reading to learn more!

The MERV Scale

The MERV scale (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) is used to rate the effectiveness of air filters. The scale goes from 1 to 16, with higher numbers indicating that the filter is more effective at capturing fine particles.

Air filters are rated on the MERV scale for two different types of applications: commercial and residential. Commercial air filters are typically used in large buildings, such as office buildings, schools, and hospitals. These filters are designed to remove particles such as dust and pollen from the air.

Residential air filters are designed for use in homes, rooms, and smaller buildings. These filters are typically more effective at removing smoke and bacteria from the air.

However, what the MERV scale really does for us is indicate the balance between air flow and filtration. A higher MERV rating does not automatically mean it performs better! There is a huge difference between air filtration for residential use and for commercial use, and using the wrong rating could cause more harm than good.

Does a MERV rating go any higher than 16?

Yes, but only facilities that are as detail-controlled and resource heavy as a hospital should be using a MERV filter in the 17-20 range.

A Detailed Look at MERV Air Filter Ratings

You must use an air filter with the compatible MERV rating for the space being occupied. Why? Using the wrong MERV-rated air filter can interfere with the air flow in your facility and actually cause the air quality to worsen. This could also contribute to unwanted expenses:

  1. Any appliance using a filter with the wrong rating (by shape and design) will be resistant to the air flow and has to work harder in order to function.
  2. Appliances that have to work harder use up more energy, which leads to an increased energy bill.


The way an air filter works is by pulling air through the filter material where the particles are then trapped. The filters are designed to remove a specific percentage of particles of a certain size. However, when you use a filter with too high of a MERV rating, it can restrict its full potential. Let's break down what each MERV range does:

MERV 1-7

This filter is efficient for a range of small spaces, good for an apartment bedroom. It will capture standard particles such as pet hair, dander, dust, and lint. The use of this filter is preferred by people who do not have health ailments or any additional pollutants interfering with their air quality. (For example, people who are not smokers and people who do not own pets.)

MERV 8-11

This filter is effective at removing up to 85% of airborne particles smaller than 0.3 microns. It is the most standard MERV filter range, most popular among homeowners and small offices. MERV 8-11 provides the perfect airflow for a medium-sized space.

MERV 12-16

A MERV filter with a rating of 12 can remove up to 95% of airborne particles smaller than 0.3 microns. This filter is designed for large spaces that need to be health-controlled. Primarily, schools and hospitals (although, some hospitals need an even higher MERV rating).

Many people will try to use these filters thinking they're "the best" because the rating number is higher. When in fact, what they end up facing is more costly energy bills, repairs to their A/C or heating unit, and a dirtier living space. A MERV filter of this rating in a small space - it just won't work. The air flow needs to guide the particles to the air filter, so you need a compatible filter.

An Overview on MERV-Rated Air Filters

Choosing the right MERV-rated air filter is an important decision that should not be taken lightly. Not every appliance will utilize a MERV-rated filter, but if you see one with a rating, it is an necessary distinction to make. Homeowners should stick to a MERV rating between 6-12, while commercial and office buildings should aim for the 13-16 range.

Whether you are a maintenance crewmate order supplies for your school, or a homeowner trying to reduce your seasonal allergies this year, you will need to purchase the most compatible air filter for the job! For the crewmate, this might mean a MERV 15 filter, but for a homeowner, it would be more like a MERV 8 filter.

We hope that this guide has given you a better understanding of what the MERV scale is and how to choose the right filter for your needs! Looking for a new A/C or heating filter? Try shopping here for high-quality MERV-8 rated permanent electrostatic replacement filters; trusted and recommended by professionals.

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