As human beings, we tend to remember those purchases we made for the first time, awash in confusion. Such is often the case with furnace air filters. After all, when you reached the air filter aisle of your favorite store, you were probably confronted with dozens of choices – more than you ever thought possible.

Now’s a good time to realize, when you’re not rushing through the store, that one feature distinguishes a higher efficiency air filter from the rest, and that’s the number displayed on the package. This number is the filter’s minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV rating.

In general, MERV ratings range from 1 to 16. The number is tied to the efficiency of the filter and how good it is at blocking airborne particles. The higher the number, the more efficient the filter is at doing its fundamental job: trapping dust and dirt, preserving the quality of your indoor air and keeping your furnace running in top form.

So how should you interpret these numbers? Low efficiency filters have MERV ratings of between 1 and 4, while medium efficiency air filters usually merit MERV ratings of between 5 an 13. Most air filters fall within this mid-range, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says they sufficiently remove most airborne particles. Higher efficiency filters usually earn MERV ratings of between 13 and 16.

As you might guess, the higher the MERV rating, the more a filter costs, though the difference between a medium and high efficiency filter might be only a dollar or two. The price difference might be well worth it if you’re concerned about your indoor air quality, especially during a season when you can’t open your windows to ventilate your home or if someone in your home suffers from allergies, asthma or respiratory problems. Keep in mind, however, that it’s important to select an air filter with a MERV rating recommended by your HVAC system’s manufacturer. Going with too high a rating on a system not meant to support it can cause your system to work inefficiently.

For help sizing up your family’s circumstances and choosing the best air filter for your home, contact the experts at Senica Air Conditioning, Inc.. Like the best, higher efficiency air filter, we’ll clear the air.

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