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What Is the Difference Between MERV 8 and MERV 11 Filters?

Many homeowners ask us about MERV ratings, especially when it comes to choosing between MERV 8 and MERV 11 air filters.

Here’s what we tell them: Think of MERV 8 filters as a “good” option, and MERV 11 filters as the “better” option for normal residential use.

In this article, we’ll go into more detail about MERV filters and how to choose the right one for your home.

But before we dive into comparisons, let’s start with a little refresher on what MERV means...

What’s MERV, again?


MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, and it’s used to tell you how well an air filter can catch particles in your home’s air.

The higher the MERV rating, the more efficient the air filter is at catching harmful pollutants in your home’s air.

What kind of pollutants are we talking about? Well, everything from pollen and dust mites to bacteria and tobacco smoke.

Air particles are measured in microns (one-millionth of a meter). The smaller the particle size in microns, the bigger the MERV rating you’ll need to catch it.

According to ASHRAE tests, there are 4 general tiers or categories of MERV ratings:
  • MERV 1–4 (decent): A filter in this MERV range is your typical disposable fiberglass filter. These can pick up particles that are 10 microns or larger, which include pollen, regular standing dust.
  • MERV 5–8 (good): These filters are better at catching small particles (3–10 microns) like mold spores, hair spray, dust mites and animal dander.
  • MERV 9–12 (better): The best option for residential use. These air filters can remove pollutants as small as 1–3 microns, which includes particles like humidifier dust, auto emissions and legionella.
  • MERV 13–16 (best): These filters are usually only found in hospitals because they can capture particles as small as 1–0.03 microns in size. Particles this small include bacteria, tobacco smoke and even the contaminants in sneezes.
So now that you know a little bit about MERV ratings, it’s time to choose which one is right for you...

So, should I get a MERV 8 or a MERV 11 air filter?


Whether you get a MERV 8 or a MERV 11 filter depends on these 3 factors:
  • Your budget: If you’re on a tight budget, you may be happy with a MERV 8 filter. They’re less expensive than MERV 11 filters, and they’re still a good air filtering option. But price isn’t everything, so you should also consider the following factors...
  • # of pets in your family: If you have 1 or more pets at home, their dander is picked up and distributed by your A/C into the air you breathe. A MERV 8 filter should pick up most animal dander, but if you have 2 or more pets you may need a MERV 11 to completely eliminate those harmful particles from your home’s air. 
  • Your family’s health concerns: Does anyone in your family suffer from asthma or allergies? A MERV 11 filter would make their lives a lot more comfortable because it can pick up even smaller particles than a MERV 8 filter. If members of your family have those health concerns, we recommend a MERV 11 air filter—especially in the spring and summer seasons.

In summary, a MERV 8 is a good air filter option, but for the cleanest air, go with a MERV 11.

Already have a high MERV filter and you still want cleaner air? Contact us to learn about the whole-home air cleaner options we offer.

Have more air filter or A/C questions?


We’re happy to answer them! Contact Air Experts to speak with one of our friendly customer service representatives

We’ve been reliably serving New Jersey families since 1994.

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