What the heck is a MERV?

Ever met someone who says anything and everything that pops into their head? We sometimes say those people “lack a filter.” Using a low-quality air filter is kind of like hanging out with that person. It can get a little embarrassing at times. Flimsy fiberglass filters allow all sorts of inappropriate things to fly. But when you go higher quality, you’re faced with more sophisticated options and ratings. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place to learn more about the air filter MERV ratings, so you’ll always have just the right amount of filter.

When you’ve been out shopping for filters, you might have noticed different ratings on packages. And if you’re like lots of people, you might not have known what any of the different numbers and colors meant. Maybe you just grabbed the cheapest filter instead of paying attention to ratings (please stop doing this). Maybe you chose the one with the green color-coded rating because you figured that one was eco-friendly. Maybe you didn’t even look at the ratings because you were too busy trying to find a certain size filter on an overcrowded aisle. Regardless, next time you’re tasked with buying air filters, the different air filter MERV ratings are going to make a lot more sense to you.

MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value)

The MERV system is used internationally as a standard means of evaluating the efficiency of an air filter. Developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, this system measures an air filter’s ability to do two things: capture particles and pollutants and trap them within the filter. The MERV scale for pleated filters begins at 6 and goes up to 13 (the highest recommended for residential applications). MERV 13 rated filters can capture and trap lint, household dust, pollen, dust mite debris, pet dander, smoke, smog, bacteria, and virus carriers. They are perfect for new homes, families with babies or elderly or anyone demanding cleaner air in their home. Fiberglass filters are almost all rated MERV 4 and lower. These filters are pretty good at catching big dust bunnies and small family pets but they are not designed to trap the fine dust that is plaguing your house currently. Don’t believe me? Hold it up to the light, you will probably see dust right now floating in your air actually going right through the filter. We recommend MERV 8 as the bare minimum protection in your home and workplace. Not only does this keep harmful pollutants out of your lungs it also keeps them out of your HVAC system which will help your equipment stay at manufacturer’s specs longer. 

MPR (Micro-Particle Performance Rating)

This system was developed by 3M and it rates filters according to their ability to capture particles smaller than one micron. The lowest MPR rating is 300 and is the equivalent of a MERV 6. It denotes a filter than can trap lint, pollen and household dust. MPR 600 is equal to MERV 8 filters and MPR 1000-1200 are equal to MERV 11 filters. The highest MPR rating is 1900, meaning the filter can trap particles as small as bacteria and viruses which is equivalent to a MERV 13.

FPR (Filter Performance Rating)

Filter Performance Rating is Home Depot’s rating system. It uses colors and numbers but is similar to the MERV rating scale in other regards. This rating begins at the higher rated second-tier MERV and MPR scales. Anything below that will say FPR N/A if it mentions the filter performance rating at all. This means it is not applicable. From lowest rated to highest, the FPR color scale goes green, red, purple and then blue. FPR 5 (green) is equivalent to MERV 8. FPR 7 (red) is equivalent to MERV 11 and FPR 9 is equivalent to MERV 12. FPR 10 (blue) is equivalent to MERV 13.

When you see these various air filter MERV ratings, you can compare filters’ performances according to different criteria. Not having enough filter is uncomfortably close to letting your HVAC go commando.  Get the right amount of filter by knowing what the different ratings mean and shop for high-performance air filters online for easy side-by-side performance comparisons. Having the right filters means you can breathe easier.


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