The MERV rating is an abbreviation for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It is the industry standard rating system established by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers. This rating system is used to measure the effectiveness of air filters in trapping small particles that you don't want to circulate around your home. The higher the MERV rating, the more particles the filter traps.
The MERV rating is a scale from 1 to 16, with higher ratings indicating greater air filtration capabilities. A MERV 8 air filter is considered a more than adequate option for standard cases, but it may not be enough when it comes to combating increased outdoor air pollution, pet fur and dander, or asthma and allergy triggers. In such cases, a MERV 13 air filter is recommended as it can filter smoke, airborne viruses and smog. Fiberglass filters are extremely porous and, as a result, ineffective at filtering.
As the filter begins to become loaded with dirt, the charge can no longer attract particles and the MERV value decreases. On the other hand, pleated filters are more effective at trapping particles, especially finer particles that have no problem passing through a fiberglass filter. MERV 17 to MERV 20 filters are commonly used in operating rooms, cleanrooms, and other settings that require absolute cleanliness. Most MERV 7 or higher air filters are effective at trapping dust, mold spores, tobacco smoke, pet dander and pollen.
MERV 13 air filters are very effective at removing a wider range of particles, such as smoke, bacteria and even some viruses.