Does a High MERV Rating Restrict Airflow?

Learn how high merv ratings can affect airflow in your HVAC system from an expert's perspective.

Does a High MERV Rating Restrict Airflow?

The short answer is that it can, but it's not really a problem except in extreme circumstances. Most modern HVAC systems have no problem working with merv filters of higher ratings, so millions of homeowners rely on them. The main risk of high-efficiency air filters comes from the fact that they are not modified for long periods of time. If you're aware of changing your filters regularly, you're unlikely to experience filter-related issues with your HVAC system.

Typically, a filter with a higher merv rating will reduce airflow. However, there are many other factors at play, such as the size of the filter and the type of fan motor of the HVAC system. Research shows that overall, HVAC systems with high MERV* filters have a higher pressure drop across the filter. In general, filters with higher merv ratings capture higher percentages of particulate matter as well as smaller particles.

And MERV-13* is practically where you want to be. A MERV rating is a good indicator of the effectiveness of an air filter in your central HVAC split system. The higher the rating, the better the filter. As the MERV rating increases, fewer and fewer pollutants and dust pass through the filter, making the incoming airflow of better quality.

Using an air filter with a MERV rating that is too high is as bad as using one that is too low. Air filters with higher MERV ratings may filter more, but the thickness of the filter material may restrict airflow. Restricted airflow can decrease comfort, increase energy use, and accelerate wear of HVAC components. In particular, using an air filter with a too high MERV rating can damage the compressor, heat exchanger, and air conditioner coil.

It is best to adhere to the oven manufacturer's recommendations or consult an HVAC professional to determine exactly which MERV rating is best for your specific system. In addition, high-performance air filters that contain pleats create much more surface area for air to pass through, which can improve airflow and reduce strain on the system. When I was reading the very same one, when I was reading the very small print, in the far RIGHT column it does say that there are microfine fiberglass particles in the Merv 11 — 16. As the filter becomes dirty and more airflow is restricted, the PSC motor will provide even less airflow. It may seem that they are almost the same, but the MERV 8 air filters and the Merv 11 air filters have some clear differences. For example, general filtration with an 8 MERV will filter up to about 10 microns, while a 13 merv filter will only have about 0.3 microns in pitch. By the way, surgeries have a variety of merv filters and HVAC systems use merv filters; in both cases, they do not use fiberglass. As for the need for high MERV filtering, it's easy to ignore it until you meet someone with allergies or asthma. Home Energy published an article by Dave Springer of Davis Energy Group at the time, on the pressure drop and energy use of various MERV filters.

Second, ASHRAE is now encouraging the switch to MERV-13 (ASHRAE Position Paper on Infectious Aerosols) as a measure to provide cleaner air in non-sanitary facilities. One thing to keep in mind is that you may need to change a MERV 11 air filter a little more often than a MERV 8 air filter. If you want to use pleated filters and superior MERV filters, the only sure way to do that is to have a 5- to 6-inch media filter installed by a professional.