What is MERV rating?

Air purifiers are quickly becoming a health necessity. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently named indoor air pollution as one of the top risks to public health, drawing attention to the importance of air purifiers and the MERV rating.

Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, or MERV, is a system designed to evaluate a filter’s ability to catch bigger airborne particles. Inspired by a test method from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the MERV rating is crucial when trying to decide between different filters.

What MERV rating should I use?

To understand what MERV rating you should use, you first need to learn how air filters are rated. There are 12 different sizes of particles from 0.3 to 10 micrometers (µm). To put it into perspective, the human eye can’t detect particles smaller than 40 µm.

Each filter goes through several tests to determine how many particles they can capture. MERV ratings range from 1 to 20, with 20 being the highest level of filtration. As a general rule, the higher the MERV rating, the more efficient is a filter is at capturing toxic pollutants of various sizes.

Home air purifiers tend to have a MERV between 5 and 13, while filters with MERV 16 through 20 are usually found only in hospitals and nuclear power plants. Thanks to technological advances, however, more and more companies are incorporating MERV16 filters into home air purifiers. The Aprilaire Space-Gard Air Purifier, for example, is able to remove not only large particles such as dust mites, pollen, and pet dander, but also smoke and viruses that are undetectable to the human eye.

It’s important to know that with a higher MERV rating comes the responsibility of replacing your air filter more often. In time, trapped dirt, dander, mold, and dust can clog filters and decrease indoor air quality, leading to asthma and allergies.

The best way to avoid this is by replacing your air filter every two to three months and diligently following manufacturer recommendations on maintenance.

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