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Here's What Your Filter’s Rating System Means

Here's What Your Filter’s Rating System Means

So, you thought replacing your filter would be easy, right? Not so fast. You have a big decision ahead of you.

Filters have different performance levels based on the particle sizes they trap. In short, the smaller the particle, the higher the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, or MERV rating.

Consider this: The more effective the filter, the harder your heating and cooling system has to work to force air through it. In other words, a high MERV rating means a higher energy bill.

That means you’ll have to balance your desire for optimal air quality with HVAC efficiency.

So, what do the MERV ratings mean?

We break it down.

MERV Rating 1-3

Typically, these filters are of the washable variety. Instead of replacing your filter every 30 to 90 days, as recommended, you simply hose it off. The obvious advantage here is cost savings. Quality filters run between $10 and $50 a piece. That adds up when you replace them four times a year. A washable filter allows you to apply that money toward other things, like HVAC maintenance. However, there is one major drawback: While it can catch pollen, dust and fur, things such as dust mites, spores and smoke will slip right through.

If air quality is a top concern, keep shopping.

MERV Rating 3-4

Filters with a MERV of 3 to 4 are typically made of fiberglass and are your cheapest option. (You can get a 6-pack for less than $20.). They perform slightly better than the washable type, capable of trapping pollen, dust, hair, fur and dust mites. However, the fiberglass panel tends to clog quicker. We recommend replacing it every 30 days.

MERV Rating 6-10

This is an excellent mid-range option, costing between $10 and $50. The fabric is pleated, giving it more surface area to capture contaminates. Plus, it’s a solid defense against microscopic pollutants, such as spores and, depending on the thickness, smoke. Because it’s a more effective filter, it will put a little more strain on your HVAC system, increasing your utility bill.

MERV Rating 8-16

This one will cost you a pretty penny ($500-plus) and may require a retrofit to your existing HVAC unit. That’s because this is an electronic air cleaner consisting of a pre-filter to trap larger particles, such as dust and dander. The air then passes through a series of electrically charged filters to remove bacteria and mold. For people who suffer from allergies, this device can bring you much-needed relief. Bonus: You don’t have to replace the filters. Just wash them every couple of months.

MERV Rating 14-20

This is overkill, folks. These filters are generally intended for hospitals and health-care institutions. Your residential filter will not be able to push air through it.

Bottom line: There are a variety of filters on the market. Depending on your needs and budget, you can find the right one to improve indoor air quality and maintain system performance. For all other HVAC needs, contact Fairway Heating & Cooling at (813) 519-6620


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