Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Understanding MERV Ratings

Everyone has been there. You’re sitting at home or work when you start to notice a smell coming from the air conditioner. Maybe you just need to replace the filter, or maybe it’s a bigger issue.

But there are so many different filters out there. How do you know which one to get? Well, that depends on how well you need to filter the air.

Different MERV ratings for air filters will tell you how well they filter things from the air. Keep reading to learn what these ratings are and what the different ratings mean.

What Are MERV Ratings?

The acronym MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value. This just means it’s a measure of how well an air filter is able to remove small particles from the air.

Filters have a rating from 1 to 20. A low rating means they may be able to filter large particles from the air but not smaller particles.

A high rating, on the other hand, means they are able to filter more large particles and some smaller particles. These particles are measured in microns or micrometers, which is about 1/26,000 of an inch.

Different MERV Ratings

Whether you’re looking for a furnace filter MERV rating or a HEPA filter MERV rating, there is one that is right for your needs. Here are some of the differences between the different ratings.

Basic Air Filters

The lowest ratings air filters can have are 1-4. These filters only stop less than 20% of particles between 3 and 10 microns. However, they do have some uses.

They stop things like pollen, dust mites, and spray paint from getting through them, so they are ideal for outdoor applications.

Low-Efficiency Filters

The next category includes ratings between 5 and 8. These can filter up to 85% of particles between 3 and 10 microns but still less than 20% of smaller particles.

This means they stop things like mold spores and hair spray. This category includes the lower-end air filters used in homes and businesses.

Intermediate Filters

This category may be better for your home if someone has allergies or a sensitivity to certain particles. It includes ratings between 9 and 12 and filter more than 90% of particles between 3 and 10 microns.

They also filter at least 50% but up to 90% of particles between 1 and 3 microns. This includes things like flour, auto fumes, and pet dander.

High-Efficiency Filters

This category includes MERV ratings between 13 and 16. They are typically used in commercial settings that require more than normal filtering.

They stop at least 90% of particles between 1 and 3 microns as well as at least 75% but up to 95% of particles between 0.3 and 1 micron. This includes things like bacteria, smoke, and saliva from someone’s sneeze.


The highest MERV ratings include those between 17 and 20. These are typically used in hospitals and clean rooms to restrict things like viruses or carbon dust.

They stop at least 99.97% of particles between 0.3 and 1 micron and more than 99% of larger particles. The terms HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) and ULPA (ultra-low particulate air) sometimes describe this category.

If you’re looking for an air filter for your home or business, be sure to find out more so you’ve got enough information to make the right choice. 

Decide for Yourself!

Now that you know all about what MERV ratings are and some of their different types, feel free to do some more research and decide for yourself which one is the best MERV rating for your home or business.

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