When it comes to air filters, homeowners often wonder if a MERV 16 filter is worth the investment. The answer is not always straightforward, as it depends on the specific needs of the home. MERV, or Minimum Efficiency Report Value, is a scale that rates the effectiveness of filters in trapping particles in the air. It ranges from 1 to 16, with 16 being the most effective.
A MERV rating of 13 to 16 is considered hospital-level air quality, so it's unlikely that your home will need more than that. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency states that filters in the 7-13 range often have little difference with higher MERV ratings, but will allow your system to operate much more efficiently.
High-efficiency MERV 16 filters have unique properties, as they remove most of the dirt rather than the particles embedded in the filter. In most cases, a MERV 16 furnace and an AC filter would offer twice the efficiency of a MERV 13 filter at the submicron level. MERV 17 to MERV 20 filters are commonly used in operating rooms, cleanrooms, and other settings that require absolute cleanliness. It's important to note that a higher MERV rating correlates with a lower particle count, so the higher the rating, the better.
Filters with higher MERV ratings trap small particles more effectively than those with lower ratings. Both claim to be based on the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers ASHRAE 52.2 standard used to establish MERV ratings, but neither company offers an easily accessible explanation of how their own ratings differ or compare to MERV. All air furnaces and central air conditioning units can handle MERV 16 filters; however, since they tend to be quite deep compared to traditional filters, the installation of a dedicated aftermarket housing is required, which is not always feasible. Compared to cheaper basic filters available, medium-efficiency MERV filters such as the Nordic Pure MERV 12 can greatly reduce airborne dust, mold spores, pollen and even smoke. This can help alleviate respiratory ailments according to an NIH review.