merv vs hepa

MERV vs. HEPA Filters for Your HVAC System: Which Is the Best Fit?

A contributing factor to your home’s indoor air quality is its HVAC air filter. Airborne allergens and pollutants circulate through the property, increasing the risk of respiratory illnesses and allergy symptoms. However, the right air filter will keep your air clean. 

The top two air filter types for trapping the smallest airborne particles are MERV and HEPA filters. In the MERV vs. HEPA debate, but which is best for you?

Our team at Eastern Shore Heating & Cooling understands how challenging it can be for homeowners to choose MERV vs. HEPA filters. However, our HVAC experts offer details below to help you make a well-informed decision that’s best for your home’s indoor air quality needs.  

Why Are HVAC Air Filters Important?

An air filter is a porous cardboard-framed screen with a pleated cloth or fiberglass interior. HVAC air filters are designed to trap airborne impurities as indoor air circulates through the air conditioning system. The air that re-enters the room after passing through the air filter is substantially cleaner, which helps reduce exposure to potentially harmful particles, including:

  • Dust
  • Bacteria
  • Dead skin cells
  • Plaster or wood particles
  • Hair and fur
  • Mold spores
  • Pollen

What Is a HEPA Filter?

High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are pleated mechanical filtration systems that can eliminate over 99.90% of fine particulate matter circulating through the air. These lab-created filters are the best filtration systems because they can trap particles as small as 0.3 microns. However, they require an extra fan or portable air purifier to work correctly and produce sufficient energy to push air through them. 

A HEPA filter is excellent at reducing asthma and allergy symptoms for the building’s inhabitants because they trap fine airborne particles. They also produce no environment-harming byproducts.

What Is a MERV Filter?

MERV, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, filters can capture large airborne particles between 0.3 to 10 microns. The filters have a MERV rating that alerts users to the screen’s performance ability based on the testing method designed by refrigeration and air conditioning experts at ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers). 

MERV ratings go from 1 to 16. The higher the number, the more effectively the screen can remove contaminants from the air. Here is a closer breakdown of what different MERV-rated air filters can remove:

  • MERV Rating 1-4: Pollen, dust mites, dust
  • MERV Rating 5-8: Mold spores, hairspray particles, cooking particles
  • MERV Rating 9-12: Smaller pollen and mold spores
  • MERV Rating 13-16: Tiny dust, pollen, mold spores, and cooking particles, as well as bacteria and viruses

MERV filters are highly compatible with most HVAC systems and can drastically improve indoor air quality. The screens are also affordable, which is desirable to many property owners. Heating and cooling air filters need changing at least once every three months, so affordability is essential. 

However, the screens are so effective that HVAC systems sometimes struggle to push air through them. That issue may force air conditioners and heaters to overwork, which could lead to higher energy bills. 

Differences Between MERV and HEPA Screens

Most homes can accommodate MERV 1-13 air filters. Anything above MERV 13 is more suitable for commercial environments. However, HEPA filters are ideal for high-risk areas like healthcare facilities. 

Can Air Conditioners Use Any Air Filter Type?

Sometimes, homeowners try to avoid the MERV vs. HEPA debate by using “just any” filter in their HVAC system. However, this is not advisable. You can’t use “just any” air filter in your heating and cooling unit without considering the equipment and the screen’s compatibility. 

For instance, traditional home HVAC systems cannot accommodate HEPA filters due to their fine mesh and delicate construction. You could modify an air conditioning unit to handle a HEPA filtration system, but that would be costly. HEPA filters are more suitable for units with standalone air purifiers, but a MERV 13 filter would be almost as effective as a HEPA filter. 

Turn to Us at Eastern Shore Heating & Cooling for Quality HVAC Maintenance

No matter your stance on the MERV vs. HEPA filters debate, rest assured that your heating and cooling system is in the best hands with our team at Eastern Shore Heating & Cooling. After 42 years in the HVAC industry, our top-rated HVAC team continues to set the standards in comprehensive and affordable services and customer care. From making HVAC maintenance to extensive system repairs, there’s not much our skilled technicians can’t do. 

Request a free estimate today from us at Eastern Shore Heating & Cooling at (732) 800-9416 or complete our convenient online form.