When discussing your air conditioner’s air filter, it’s important to understand the lingo. MERV, or minimum efficiency reporting value, numbers indicate an air filter’s effectiveness at capturing airborne contaminants. It’s a convenient guide to help consumers choose the best filter for their home and A/C equipment. For instance, if you or loved ones suffer from respiratory issues like asthma or allergies, you can use MERV numbers to quickly narrow your search to air filters that capture the particulates that may exacerbate your condition.
The MERV scale ranges from a high of 16 to a low of 1. Air filters with a value of MERV 13-16 are high-efficiency filters and approach true HEPA filtering capabilities. These filters capture contaminants as fine as tobacco smoke, bacteria and most insecticide dust. Before installing filters in this range, it’s highly recommended that you have a heating and cooling pro inspect your home’s HVAC equipment for compatibility and function, as airflow may be impeded. There is a trade-off with high filtering efficiency and the energy efficiency of your A/C system, since the extra blower power needed to circulate air increases energy consumption.
MERV 8-12 filters are excellent for households with attached garages, and for households in arid, dusty climates like Tucson’s, which experience fine airborne sand particulates that easily accumulate inside HVAC equipment and carpeting. MERV 8-12 filters capture fine dust and sand, auto emission particulates, as well as Legionella, mold spores, humidifier dust and lead dust.
MERV 5-7 filters should be the minimum MERV range considered for occupants with respiratory concerns. These filters capture pet dander, dust mite debris, pollen and aerosols, like hair spray and deodorants.
MERV 1-4 filters are basic disposable filters that capture most large particulates, preventing buildup on HVAC equipment, but these filters do very little to improve indoor air quality. Filters rated MERV 5 and higher are recommended.
No matter which filter you choose, make sure it fits properly with no air bypass, and remember to check it regularly. If you have any questions, contact Rite Way Ventilating Co. We have proudly served residents of Tucson since 1959.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about air filters and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.