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MERV 8 vs MERV 11: Which Is Better?

August 26, 2022
MERV 8 vs MERV 11: Which Is Better?

When it comes to improving air quality and trapping particles, should you go for a higher filter level? This MERV 8 vs MERV 11 guide will help you decide.

More than 25 million people in the US contend with long-term respiratory illness.

These problems can range from mild to severe, but exposure to indoor contaminants can exacerbate even the mildest of cases. Additionally, air pollutants can create both short-term and long-term issues for those with healthy respiratory systems.

As a homeowner or commercial property manager, installing an air filter that actually works needs to be a priority. Understanding MERV ratings is essential. Read on to learn about common MERV 8 vs MERV 11 filters as well as other types of filtration systems.

What Are MERV Ratings?

Minimum efficiency reporting values (MERV) ratings are essential to understand when choosing an air filter. This value comes in the form of a number between 1-20 and reports the filter's ability to catch different sizes of particles in the air.

Particles range from 0.3 to 10 microns (µm). Filters with lower numbers can only catch and control large particles such as pollen and sanding dust. Basically, they capture visible particles at the 10 µm size.

As you work your way up into the higher numbers, your filter is capable of filtering smaller and smaller particles. Once you reach MERV 20, that's when you capture small 0.3 µm contaminants. These include microscopic allergens and radon progeny.

Studies show that it's important to filter particles in buildings that people frequent. Doing so could reduce indoor exposures to particles that cause respiratory issues ranging from asthma to lung disease. In the short term, it also helps to stop sneezing from pet dander and pollen, irritation of the throat and nose, and itchiness.

What Ratings Do You Need to Know?

Many people think that it's best to simply invest in a MERV 20 filter because it's able to capture all contaminants around their home.

However, these are never suitable options for homes. They are also unnecessary for most commercial spaces.

Because of this, it's important to have a thorough understanding of MERV ratings before buying a filter.

MERV 1-4

Filters with the lowest ratings only filter particles 10 µm and larger. Many of these contaminants are visible to the naked eye. They include pollen, dust bunnies, textile fibers, pet hair, and sawdust.

These filters are ineffective for most indoor spaces. They generally are used as pre-filters. They also are used as window AC units in some smaller residential rooms, assuming that there are other window units in other areas of the home.

MERV 5-8

MERV 5-7 air filters can be used either as pre-filters or as final filters. They work well in commercial buildings as well as for central residential AC. Some people also choose them as less-effective filters in small industrial workspaces.

These filters capture particles between 3-10 µm. This means anything that lower-MERV filters can catch as well as mold, fungal spores, dust lint, and cement dust (for industrial buildings).

MERV 9-12

MERV ratings of 9-12 are ideal for some residential and commercial spaces, though they are not necessary in some situations. They serve as filters for better commercial buildings and superior residential buildings. They also are often used in hospital laboratories.

In addition to the 3-10 µm particles that larger-particle filters can capture, these air filters also catch 1-3 µm particles. These include humidifier dust, coal dust, nebulizer dust, and legionella.

MERV 13-16

These filters capture 0.3-1.0 µm particle sizes. Their core applications are medical.

However, they are also used in some homes and commercial buildings. Generally, people who have heavier allergies can reap some health benefits by using a MERV 13 filter in their homes. This is especially true for homeowners that have pets since MERV 13 filters can capture pet dander.

MERV 13-16 filters are made for surgery rooms, hospital inpatient care spaces, and areas that contain a lot of sick people looking for treatment. They also are in rooms with a lot of tobacco smoke like lounges and clubs. They are always final filters - you won't find them used as pre-filters.

They catch sneeze nuclei in medical settings as well as small, microscopic bacteria. This is, of course, in addition to all of the things that MERV 1-12 filters can capture. They also are effective at filtering tobacco smoke, insecticide dust, copier toner, and, of course, pet dander.

MERV 17-20

MERV 17-20 filters are almost never necessary. They're exclusively for laboratories that contain radioactive or carcinogenic materials. Pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities are one good example, as are research laboratories that handle dangerous chemicals and must follow OSHA requirements.

In addition to the larger particles that other filters can catch, these air filters can catch virus carriers, carbon dust, microscopic allergens, and radon progeny. They can also capture combustion smoke, sea salt fumes, and odor.

If you're looking to filter a residential or commercial space, you definitely do not need a filter above MERV 17. Particles smaller than 0.3 µm do not regularly pop up outside of medical or research spaces.

MERV 8 vs MERV 11: Which Is Right for Residential Spaces?

If you choose a filter that's too weak, your air filtration will be ineffective. Anything under MERV 8 is unlikely to work well for most homeowners.

However, stronger air filters that catch microscopic particles are unnecessary and take a lot of energy to run. You'll unnecessarily harm the environment and run up an enormous utility bill. You also may over-filter the air and remove necessary particles from the space, which can cause respiratory problems as well.

Residential and commercial building owners almost always should choose a MERV rating of between 8-13. 8 and 11 are the most common air filter ratings for homes, stores, offices, and anywhere that the majority of people frequent each day.

MERV 8 filters are generally the right choice for homes. You're not working with too much bacteria or any medical waste. You need something that's going to get rid of dust mites, lint, and mold (if it begins to grow in your home).

If you have a pet that sheds a lot, though, you may want to get a MERV 11 or even a MERV 13 filter. These clear pet dander out of the air. However, most homeowners find them unnecessary and don't need to wrack up extra charges on their electric bills.

What MERV Rating Is Right for Commercial Venues?

While a MERV 8 filter is perfect for most home applications, it generally doesn't work for most commercial buildings. The only exceptions are very small shops or single offices that run a window AC. The filter you choose should largely depend on the size of your space.

MERV 11 pros and cons may be difficult to weigh in a building. Generally, though, they're a good choice for large department stores and locations that contain smog or car exhaust. If you want to filter a large space through an effective central AC system, MERV 11 filters have you covered.

MERV 11 filters are also generally necessary for spaces in cities with poor quality air. They may be necessary to filter out smog in areas with a lot of vehicle-related pollution. They can capture car exhaust fumes that MERV 8 filters cannot.

How Can You Choose the Right AC for Your Building?

Choosing an AC filter for your residential or commercial building can be a challenge. However, once you decide whether you need a MERV 8 vs MERV 11 filter, the purchasing process is simple. FilterTime's website makes it easy to select a filter that will fit perfectly within your pre-existing HVAC unit.

First, you can choose between standard 1 or 2 inch filters or box filters. You can figure out which you need by taking a look at your air conditioner's construction. If you're still unsure, you can talk to one of our experts for help.

You then will have the chance to choose the quantity and size of your filter. This is critical because you need to fit it into your space. Check and measure carefully before ordering!

You then can choose the quality of your filter - A.K.A the MERV rating. Luckily, you don't need to know the ins and outs of particle sizes or what filters can capture. You simply need to select the box that best describes your needs based on allergies.

At this point, you can choose what schedule you'd like your HVAC unit delivered. HVAC professionals recommend monthly delivery, but you can choose between 1-12 month frequency. This ensures that you always have high-quality air in your indoor space.

Choose the Best HVAC Filter System

Choosing an air filter can be a challenge since there are several different building types and sizes of particles. Now that you know the difference between MERV 8 vs MERV 11 (and other types of filters), it's time to begin selecting the right filtration system for your HVAC.

Our experts are committed to helping both residential and commercial building owners keep their air clean and safe. We offer replacement air filters for HVAC units of all sizes so you can choose an option that works perfectly for your needs. With FilterTime’s air filter subscription service, you can keep the air in your home in optimal shape, year-round. Once you subscribe, the right air filters will get shipped to your doorstep automatically so you’ll know exactly when to change them. Since there are no shipping charges, contracts, or hidden fees, you have nothing to lose. Get started today!

Contact us with any remaining questions you have and to get help choosing an air filter.

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