What Does A MERV Rating On A Filter Package Mean To you?

It can be difficult enough to remember what size air filter you need when scouring the stacks at your local home-improvement store. Trying to discern what all the different filter ratings mean doesn’t help. To help clear the air for selecting the right HVAC filter for your Kansas City area home this winter, remember there are two universal truths about filters: one is they clean your home’s air, and, two, the industry-standard filter rating is called MERV.


MERV, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, rates the efficiency of an air filter at capturing airborne particulates ranging in size from 10 microns (e.g. mold spores) down to 0.3 microns (e.g. smoke).

MERV ratings range from 1 (low efficiency) to 20 (most efficient filter). Filters rated 1 to 16 are for residential and business applications, and MERV 17 to 20 are typically for industrial environments that require extremely clean air, such as laboratories and computer manufacturing. These are common household contaminants captured by filters rated MERV 1-16:

  • MERV 1-4 – An air filter in this range captures only the largest airborne particles. It does little more than provide some protection for HVAC equipment, but won’t prevent mold and mildew from collecting on components and inside ductwork.
  • MERV 5-8 – Filters in this range should be the minimum if any members of the household suffer from allergies or other respiratory issues. Common allergens and contaminants captured by these filters are pet dander, mold spores and pollen.
  • MERV 9-13 – These filter all contaminants that a MERV 8 model handles, plus auto emissions, Legionella, humidifier dust and lead dust.
  • MERV 14-16 – An air filter in this range captures most tobacco smoke, all bacteria and tiny sneeze droplets, which helps remove viruses from indoor air.

It’s important for homeowners to realize that once an air filter hits the MERV 12 level particular attention will need to be given to the static pressure drop. Too much air restriction on air flow will impede equipment performance. We recommend the MERV 16 Healthy Climate filter box that has a 99.8% removal effectiveness at 3 microns while maintaining a respectful .15 static pressure loss at 1200 CFM

Make sure you check your air filter monthly during peak usage seasons for best performance and energy-efficient operation of your furnace and cooling systems. Contact Overland Park Heating & Cooling if you have any questions. We’ve served Kansas City area residents for 30 years.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Overland Park, Kansas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).