Technically speaking, a MERV rating is not a measure of energy efficiency. MERV stands for "minimum efficiency reporting value" and indicates how well a particular air filter will be able to filter out particles from the air. MERV ratings range from 1-16. A higher number is better; filters with higher numbers can filter out smaller particles.
Most HVAC units will use a filter with a MERV rating of between five and 12. These air filters can catch things like pollen, dust particles, pet dander, mold, and carpet fibers.
Air filters rated 13-16 are often in use in specialized workplaces, such as hospitals. These air filters can remove smaller particles, like bacteria, smoke, and fine water droplets from the air.
So you’re probably thinking, shouldn’t I use the highest MERV rated air filter for my HVAC unit? That depends on a few factors.
The higher MERV rating an air filter has, the smaller the particles it can catch. This also means the air filter will make it harder for the HVAC system to move the air through the filter. Additionally, the filter will get clogged faster. So a general rule of thumb is that a higher MERV rating will reduce the energy efficiency of your HVAC unit.
Of course, some situations require the extra air filtering ability and, therefore, the reduced energy efficiency is an acceptable trade-off. For example, if you have severe allergies, then it might be worth paying a higher energy bill.
Even if you believe a higher MERV rated air filter is worth the reduced energy efficiency, there are other things to keep in mind. Depending on your HVAC unit, an air filter that’s too restrictive due to its high MERV rating can damage the system. That’s why you should contact our team at Climate Control to help you figure out which air filter will provide the most energy efficiency, while still cleaning the air to the level you desire.