The air filter installed in your HVAC unit plays a big role in determining your indoor air quality. Since many Americans spend as much as 90% of the day inside, having good indoor air quality is a must. Every HVAC unit comes with an air filtration system. But what is MERV rating, and what does it mean? MERV filters come in various ratings, with higher numbers indicating better filtration. A higher air filter MERV rating means it traps smaller particles, even microscopic bacteria and viruses, but it also restricts airflow and requires proper ductwork in order for your equipment to operate properly.
Not all MERV filters fit into every home HVAC system. To get the best indoor air quality that fits your budget, you need to assess:
- Your air quality needs
- HVAC system compatibility
- Maintenance considerations
- Budget and cost
- Benefits of consulting an expert
In this blog, we’ll go over the different ratings and factors that might impact your decision when it comes to installing various air filters.
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Your Air Quality Needs
Your location and the health conditions of your household members significantly influence your air filter needs. For instance, if you reside in a region with high pollen levels and suffer from allergies, you might require a more efficient filter than someone in a low-pollen area. The presence of pets or smokers in your home also necessitates a higher-rated filter. In essence, the amount and type of contaminants in your environment dictate the most suitable MERV rating for your needs.
HVAC System Compatibility
Before investing in a high-rated MERV filter, it’s crucial to check its compatibility with your HVAC system. MERV‑8 filters are among the most popular choices because they strike a balance between performance and adaptability, fitting most systems without modifications.
However, it’s worth noting that filters with higher MERV ratings can restrict airflow. While filters rated 13 or below generally don’t strain most HVAC systems, those rated above 10 might require professional installation. For context, a MERV‑8 filter is typically 1 inch thick, whereas a MERV-13 filter measures 2 – 5 inches. Given this variation in size, it’s advisable to select the highest-rated filter that seamlessly integrates with your existing setup.
Opting for higher-rated MERV filters necessitates regular HVAC system checks to ensure it operates efficiently without undue strain. Filters with a rating of 14 or above are typically intended for commercial or industrial settings, requiring systems with robust airflow capabilities. Installing such filters in residential units might increase the frequency of maintenance checks to prevent costly damages.
For homes, if your MERV filter rating lies between 5 and 10, consider replacing it every two to three months. However, with filters rated between 11 and 13, the replacement interval can be extended to three to six months.
Budget and Cost
Transitioning from a MERV‑8 to a MERV-13 filter comes with varying costs. If your HVAC system requires modifications to accommodate a thicker filter, this can substantially increase the initial cost. However, post this initial setup, the annual cost difference between using a MERV‑8 and a MERV-13 filter is typically under $50.
When deciding on the appropriate filter, it’s essential to balance the cost with your budget and needs. For instance, if you reside in a low-pollution area, don’t own pets, and are a non-smoker, a MERV-13 filter might be an overkill. A lower-rated filter could suffice to maintain excellent indoor air quality.
Benefits of Consulting an Expert
Before making any decisions regarding your HVAC system, it’s wise to consult an indoor comfort specialist. Retrofitting your HVAC system to accommodate higher-rated filters can be a costly affair, often running into hundreds of dollars. By seeking expert advice, you can gauge the benefits of such an upgrade. An Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) specialist can assess your current air quality and provide tailored recommendations.
Experienced HVAC professionals can quickly determine which filters will seamlessly integrate with your system, eliminating the need for retrofitting. It’s also essential to discuss potential challenges that might arise from using higher-rated filters. This ensures you have a comprehensive understanding of both the advantages and potential drawbacks before making a decision.