The air filters installed in your HVAC systems are the first line of defense against airborne debris that can lead to reduced efficiency or damage to your system. Effective filters are also necessary to preserve the quality of the air you breathe in your home. Choosing the correct one is important.

Though it should be taken into account, an air filter’s cost is not the only factor to consider. HVAC filters are rated based on the size of the smallest particles they remove as air passes through them. Understanding the MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating will help you to find the filter that best fits your needs.

Residential air filters are given a number from 1 to 16, with 16 representing the ability to trap the smallest particles. Here’s a rough guide to what the different ranges of MERV ratings signify:

  • 1 to 4 are inexpensive and will provide enough filtration to protect your equipment but they do little to improve your home’s air quality. They allow the maximum airflow through your system as long as they are changed regularly (at least every three months).
  • 5 to 8 are a bit more expensive and provide sufficient filtration to remove much of the dust and allergens from your indoor air. This is the rating most commonly found in homes without special air quality requirements.
  • 9 to 12 are more expensive and more efficient, and are often used in homes where people suffer from breathing difficulties that are exacerbated by air pollutants. Consult a professional before using air filters rated this high because they may impede airflow in your HVAC system. This can lead to inefficient operation, higher energy bills and damaged equipment.
  • 13 to 16 are not really intended for for residential use except in special circumstances. They may significantly reduce airflow. As with the MERV 9 to 12 air filters, consult with your HVAC professional before using.

In all cases, get in the habit of inspecting your air filters every month, and changing them when they appear to be dirty.

There are many things to consider when looking for the right air filter for your home. If you live in or around Wichita, please contact us at Comfort Systems for help with all of our heating and cooling questions.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Wichita, Kansas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about air filters and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.