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Basics on MERV Rating for SLC Home Air Filters

There are several vital components or areas involved in your home's HVAC system, and your air filter is absolutely one of these. Responsible for both removing contaminants and keeping airflow strong within the entire system, air filters are a part of every HVAC system out there -- and not only do you need to keep an eye on their changing or cleaning frequency, but your choice of filter to begin with will also play a big role in several areas.

At My Buddy the Plumber, we're happy to offer a wide range of heating and air services to our Salt Lake City clients, from AC and furnace maintenance and tune-ups to major installations or replacements of large components -- and everything in between. We've provided numerous clients with basic tips and expertise on their air filters, from which ones to choose to how often they should be changed out. One particularly important element to be aware of when selecting a filter: MERV rating. What is this, and why does it matter? Here's a primer.

MERV rating air filters

MERV Rating Basics

MERV rating, which is short for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, is exactly what it sounds like -- a rating system that assesses the effectiveness of an air filter. There are multiple types of available filters, each with their own MERV ratings, and these can be adjusted based on your specific needs.

To be clear, MERV rating isn't a perfectly linear thing. That is, the higher a filter's MERV rating is doesn't solely determine how good it is -- but it's definitely a key metric to be aware of. Different MERV ratings will be ideal for various systems in terms of themes like airflow and others, so choosing the right one is about more than simply going for as much filtration as possible.

MERV ratings run on a numerical chart that ranges with values from 1 through 20. Lower MERV numbers mean that the filter is more basic, and will function for small amounts of contaminants. However, it will also remove less air flow within your system as a result. A higher MERV rating means that your filter can catch more particles -- but this type of filtration also has an effect on airflow.

When evaluating filter needs, it's usually prudent to group MERV ratings into a few ranges. While the specific bins used here may vary slightly from circle to circle, our next sections will go over some general MERV ranges and the kinds of settings they're usually utilized in.

MERV Ratings 1-6

As we noted above, lower MERV ratings are usually best for small particles like dust and pet dander. Filters within the MERV 1-6 range are typically utilized in homes or businesses that simply need basic protection from allergens, which can accumulate at any time of the year no matter where you live. That said, filters with higher ratings may be needed in some cases.

These filters can remove particles ranging from 0.3 up to 10 microns, with an effectiveness of around 20%. They are good for removing small particles like dust mites, paint dust, carpet fibers, pollen and more -- and they're inexpensive and energy-efficient, allowing for great airflow within the system.

At the same time, they only filter out the largest particles. They often aren't ideal for those with allergies, asthma or other respiratory conditions and should not be used in hospitals or other facilities where high-quality air filtration is especially important.

MERV Ratings 7-13

Filters in this MERV range are usually great for the more typical home, which emits particles like pet dander, pollen, small mold spores, dust mites and so on -- and may contain people who suffer from allergies or asthma. These are slightly higher-end filters in terms of contaminant removal, reducing particles between 0.3 and 10 microns in size -- but they do so at much higher efficiency than lower-MERV filters, often up to 85% in many cases. They block a far wider range of particles, as well.

On the flip side, these filters are a bit more expensive in terms of energy costs. Sometimes, this comes in the form of needing to replace them more often -- though in some homes, they may last longer because less airflow is required due to their high efficiency. But in some cases, they can limit airflow quite a bit. Regardless, this type of filter is easily one of the most popular for homes or offices, and one that's ideal for many users.

MERV Ratings 14-20

As we get into the upper ranges for MERV filters, we're moving out of the home realm and mostly into commercial or industrial settings. In many cases, these will be found in HVAC systems where people work all day, such as clinics or offices -- and the high MERV ratings here mean they can remove particles from between 0.3 to three microns in size with at least a 95% effectiveness rate.

This level of filtration is not particularly energy efficient, and is mainly used in situations where energy efficiency must take a back seat to air cleanliness. The highest MERV filters are often found in hospitals or similar settings for instance -- where it doesn't matter that they're more expensive in terms of energy use, because their multi-functionality is important enough that it outweighs this. Filters at this level should almost never be used in homes, as they will limit airflow and raise your costs in major ways.

As you can see, there are several levels of filtration for HVAC systems -- and while lower MERV ratings remain ideal for home settings in many cases, there are many situations where higher ones may be useful. It all depends on your specific needs, and our team of HVAC pros is here to help if you're unsure.

For more on MERV ratings for your air filters, or to learn about any of our HVAC or plumbing services in SLC and surrounding areas, speak to the staff at My Buddy the Plumber today.

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