When it comes to the air quality in our homes, we want to ensure that we are breathing in clean and healthy air. One way to do this is by using the best air filters for your AC unit, but not all filters are created equal. That’s where a filter’s MERV rating comes in when it comes to the quality of the air circulating through your home HVAC system. 

What is a MERV Rating?

The MERV rating system, short for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, is a measurement that indicates how well an air filter traps particles from the air. It’s like a report card for your air filter! The rating typically ranges from 1 to 16, with higher numbers representing more efficient filters. The higher the rating, the more particles the filter can trap, including dust particles, pollen, pet hair and dander, and even bacteria. So, when you see a MERV rating on an air filter, remember that it’s a way to assess its performance and effectiveness in the filter’s ability to improve your indoor air quality.

Understanding the Numbering System in MERV Ratings

MERV ratings range from 1 to 16, with higher numbers on the rating chart indicating higher efficiency. Each level represents a specific range of air particle size that the filter can effectively capture. 

MERV 1-4 

These filters are designed to capture large particles like dust and lint. 

MERV 13-16 

These higher-rated filters can trap tiny particles like airborne pollutants, bacteria and viruses. A very high MERV rating can trap most airborne contaminants.

How to Know What MERV Rating You Should Use

First and most importantly, you’ll need to check your system’s information to find out the maximum rating it can handle. Since higher MERV ratings will make it more difficult for air to flow through, you’ll want to make sure your system has the power it needs to work with a high rated MERV rating. If you still aren’t sure, contact the HVAC experts at Dolphin Cooling before you choose a new air filter, to be sure you use the right type of filter.

Next, consider the specific contaminants you want to target and your home’s needs. If you or you have asthma or allergy sufferers in your family, you’ll want to choose a filter with a higher MERV rating, such as 11 or above, to capture smaller particles like pollen, mold spores, and dust mites. In this case, you’ll want to choose the highest rating that will work for your HVAC unit to catch the smallest particles possible, not just the hightest MERV rating in general.

On the other hand, if you just want to remove larger particles like dust and pet dander and don’t have any issues with respiratory illnesses to content with, you won’t need the highest MERV rating. A lower rating, such as 6 or 8, may suffice.

How Often Should You Change Your Air Filter Based on its MERV Rating?

Once you choose the right MERV rating for your air conditioner, the frequency of replacement might be different than you’ve been used to. Generally, lower ratings require more frequent changes, as they capture fewer particles and may become clogged more quickly. Higher ratings, on the other hand, can typically go longer between changes because they’re high-efficiency filters. It’s important to refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific recommendations, but as a general rule, checking and replacing your filter every three months is a good starting point. Regular maintenance ensures that your air filter continues to effectively remove pollutants from your indoor air and keeps you and your family breathing clean, healthy air.