The air filter is one of the unsung heroes of the home. It might not receive much attention but its importance in maintaining a healthy environment in the home cannot be underestimated. That is because the air filter captures harmful particulate matter from the air and prevents it from circulating throughout the home. Particulate matter can cause or worsen respiratory problems, which is why the air filter is so important.

Every air filter has a measure of its effectiveness at trapping particulate matter, which is called a MERV rating. MERV stands for minimum efficiency rating value and the higher the rating, the more efficient the air filter. That can make you ask a few questions like, do I need an air filter with a high MERV rating? How can an air filter with a high MERV rating help me? Why should I get a MERV 13 air filter? These questions, and more, will be answered, so keep reading.

What Does The MERV Rating Tell Me?

As stated in the intro, the MERV rating is a measurement of how efficient the air filter is at capturing particulate matter from the air. Particulate matter includes irritants like pet dander, foul odors, smoke, pollutants, bacteria, and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Anyone of those could cause respiratory problems or worsen existing ones. The different MERV ratings show you which particulates the air filter is capable of trapping and removing, they are as follows:

  • MERV 1 to 4 – These air filters mainly just filter out dust so other particulate matter can get through.
  • MERV 5 to 8 – In addition to dust, these air filters can remove pollen, dust mites, and mold. Most homes are fine with an air filter in this range.
  • MERV 9 to 16 – These air filters can also trap foul odors, VOCs, and more. Only homes where some of the residents have severe allergies or respiratory problems need this level of filtration.

Most homes will be fine with a MERV 7 to 12 filter. That is because air filters with higher MERV ratings are typically meant for special buildings like hospitals and laboratories. However, there may be some cases where a home may need a higher rated air filter.

Can A High MERV Rated Air Filter Prevent The Spread of Diseases?

Many airborne infections are spread by droplet nuclei and air filters with a MERV rating of thirteen or higher can capture those nuclei and prevent airborne diseases from spreading. Of course, it helps if you better understand how these airborne infections work. Everyone releases very small drops of water when they breathe, cough, or sneeze. These are known as respiratory droplets and they contain tiny particles within them. When the water evaporates in the air, the particles are left behind and can remain airborne for a while.

In some cases, those particles are viruses and the mass of particles is called a droplet nucleus. Droplet nuclei are microscopic and can contain viruses like the common cold, the flu, measles, chickenpox, and more. They are small enough that most air filters cannot trap them, but MERV 13 filters can.

That does not mean that MERV 13 filters can completely eliminate the spread of infections caused by droplet nuclei, but they can significantly reduce them.

Should I Get A MERV 13 Air Filter?

As stated earlier, MERV 13 filters are mainly used in buildings that require high filtration levels and most homes do not qualify. However, if one or more of the residents of the home is at a high risk of respiratory problems, then a MERV 13 air filter may be necessary. It can reduce the risk of airborne illnesses circulating throughout the home.

However, you should keep in mind that a MERV 13 air filter will have a big impact on your electricity bill. That is because the HVAC systems of most homes were not designed for air filters with very high MERV ratings. As a result, the fan of the AC unit will have to work a lot harder to push air through the filter. That could cause an increase in your electricity bill so make sure that you absolutely need a MERV 13 filter before buying one.

A MERV 13 Filter Can Decrease The Risk Of Airborne Diseases In The Home

The answer is yes: a MERV 13 filter can decrease the risk of diseases in the home. However, that does not mean it is right for every home. The energy cost of a MERV 13 filter is very high and most homes do not need one. For the few that do, a MERV 13 filter is a great way of reducing the risk of an airborne virus spreading and infecting anyone who is especially vulnerable.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "Can a MERV 13 Air Filter Decrease the Risk of Diseases in the Home?," in Medicalopedia, May 5, 2020, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/8816/can-a-merv-13-air-filter-decrease-the-risk-of-diseases-in-the-home/].