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HEPA or MERV Filters: Which is Better for Your HVAC System?

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The HVAC system in your house is designed to circulate air while simultaneously heating and cooling it. A filter is included in every HVAC system to remove pollutants and particles from the air. Given how much time the average homeowner spends indoors, it’s critical to ensure that your HVAC system has the greatest filter, not just for your comfort but also for your health.

But not all filters are created equal. Make sure you have the correct filter for your needs before you buy your next one.

We’ll go over why having a good filter is important, what a true HEPA filter is, and the MERV air filter ratings below.

Why Do I Need a Filter in My HVAC System?

HEPA or MERV Filters: Which is Better for Your HVAC System?

One of the most critical variables affecting the air quality in your home is filtration. A good filter can help keep pollutants out of the air. Dust, mites, pollen, pet dander, mold, skin flakes, and viruses are just a few of the microscopic particles that circulate in indoor air, causing sickness, asthma, and allergies.

What is an Air Filter’s MERV Rating?

The abbreviation for minimal efficiency reporting values (MERV) is minimum efficiency reporting values. The MERV air filter ratings are used to rate the quality of MERV filters. They assess how efficiently your filter eliminates air contaminants. All filters are given a MERV rating.

What are the MERV Air Filter Ratings and How Do They Work?

The MERV Air Filter Ratings are based on a scale of 1- 20 and report on a filter’s ability to collect particles in the air. The higher a filter’s rating is — for example, a 16, the more and smaller airborne particles and contaminants it can capture. In fact, higher-rated filters may remove airborne biological growth, smoke, and odors from a car while also being extremely energy efficient.

You won’t be able to find a MERV filter with a rating higher than 16 at your local hardware shop, and you probably wouldn’t want to. Only hospitals and schools utilize filters with a rating of more than 16.

What MERV Filter Should I Purchase?

HEPA or MERV Filters: Which is Better for Your HVAC System?

When looking for a filter for your furnace or air conditioner, choose one that is between 5 and 13. This range is recommended since it is a good benchmark for the average American household. Anything less than 5 will not catch enough airborne contaminants to be worthwhile, and anything more than 13 will put your HVAC system under strain. Because the greater the MERV air filter rating, the more layers the filter has, the more difficult it is for your HVAC system to perform. Because there is too much airflow resistance, the pressure in your HVAC may drop.

What is the Purpose of a HEPA Filter?

The abbreviation HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air and refers to a pleated mechanical air filter. On the MERV air filter rating scale, a real HEPA filter would be a 16-20. True HEPA filters, according to the EPA, remove “99.97 percent of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any other airborne particles.” HEPA filters are typically considered the best filters for schools, hospitals, pharmaceutical labs, food labs, nuclear power plants, and tech manufacturing plants because of their filtration effectiveness.

Is a HEPA Filter Required?

HEPA or MERV Filters: Which is Better for Your HVAC System?

HEPA filters are not recommended for use in most residential HVAC systems because the filtration material is excessively dense and thick, restricting airflow. Installing a HEPA filter in an HVAC unit that isn’t HEPA compatible can cause a drop in pressure, similar to using a MERV filter that is too high rated. Although you can adapt your HVAC system to incorporate a HEPA filter, it is not a required change for your home’s HVAC system.

For the same reason, using a HEPA filter for air conditioning or a HEPA filter for furnaces is not suggested. HEPA filters are also much more expensive, so they’re not worth it for your home.

The filter you choose for your HVAC system has an even bigger job than your HVAC system. Look for filters with a MERV rating of 5 to 13, and save real HEPA filters for areas like hospitals or schools when updating your filter.

HEPA or MERV Filters: Which is Better for Your HVAC System?

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Written by HVAC Contributor

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