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Check Your Air Filter MERV Rating

Air filters may seem like a trivial part of your HVAC system, but they can make a big difference. If you care about indoor air quality and efficient equipment performance, it pays to learn about MERV ratings. Find out more about minimum efficiency reporting values (MERVs) and why they matter.

Then, contact SOS Xtreme Comfort for help ordering the right filters for your New Jersey, New York, or Pennsylvania home.

What are MERV Ratings?

MERV is a standard rating established by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The rating system reveals how well filters trap particles of increasingly smaller sizes. The MERV scale ranges from 1 to 20, with higher ratings indicating better filtration. With that in mind, you may assume everyone should buy a MERV 20 filter for the cleanest air possible, but that would be a mistake. Here’s a look at the MERV scale and why choosing a filter rated MERV 5 to 8 is probably the best choice.

A Breakdown of MERV Ratings

  • MERV 1 to 4, Disposable Fiberglass Filters: One-inch thick spun fiberglass filters are designed to trap dust, lint, carpet fibers, and other relatively large airborne debris down to 10 microns. This level of filtration prevents dust from settling on the HVAC equipment, but it does very little to improve indoor air quality.
  • MERV 5 to 8, Disposable Pleated and Cartridge Filters: Made of cotton or polyester, this popular range of filters removes allergens down to 3 microns, including mold spores and dust. This level of filtration is ideal for most residential applications.
  • MERV 9 to 12, Electrostatic Bag and Box Filters: Self-charging cotton or paper fibers attract particles as small as 1 to 3 microns, including milled flour and humidifier dust. Homes with children, pets, or smokers may benefit from this additional filtration. At 6 to 12 inches deep, rigid-style cartridge filters rated MERV 11 or 12 require a special housing to be installed. Therefore, they are usually reserved for hospitals and high-end commercial applications.
  • MERV 13 to 16, High-Efficiency Bag and Box Filters: This option is comprised of pleated synthetic cotton attached to a metal frame. At these high MERV ratings, the filter can sift out all bacteria and tobacco smoke down to 0.3 microns. Such advanced filtering capability requires hefty airflow, so MERV 13 to 16 filters are not suitable for residences. Instead, you might find them in hospitals, surgery rooms, and smoking lounges.
  • MERV 17 to 20, HEPA Filters: High-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filters feature tightly woven fibers capable of trapping no less than 99.97% of particles smaller than 0.3 microns. This includes carbon dust, combustion smoke, and viruses. HEPA filters are often used in clean rooms and areas that store carcinogenic or radioactive material.

Choosing & Replacing Your HVAC Filter

Based on filter performance along the MERV scale, you most likely need a filter rated MERV 5 to 8. If you have no allergies or pets, MERV 1 to 4 is also acceptable. Then again, if you have severe allergies, asthma, or a lung condition, you may want to select up to MERV 10 for extra filtration. Any higher than this may require you to boost the fan motor speed for proper airflow. Take higher filter prices and operating costs into account if you go this route.

SOS Xtreme Comfort is pleased to partner with FilterFetch, a service that allows you to conveniently order replacement HVAC filters from home. Using our unique online reorder code—C4UR—you can easily find and order the correct filters for your system and have them delivered straight to your door.

To learn more about MERV ratings, ordering replacement filters, or installing filters in your HVAC system, please give us a call! You can reach us in New Jersey at (973) 827-8179; in New York at (845) 351-4700; or in Pennsylvania at (570) 618-8055.

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