High-Efficiency Air Filters

By Laura Galvin, Shorenstein Realty Services

Changing to high efficiency air filters can result in improved indoor air quality, cleaner air handling equipment, less frequent filter changes and reduced energy costs.  This article will help you to identify some areas to research when considering filter upgrades.   

Filter Ratings
Filters are labeled by MERV ratings 1-16.  MERV stands for “Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value” and the number helps you identify a filter’s performance for removing particles of various sizes.  Filters are tested with three size ranges of particles and based on these tests are given the appropriate MERV rating, with MERV 16 being the most efficient.

While still more costly per unit, upgrading filters can save money by both delivering cleaner air handling equipment and requiring less filter changes.  Cleaner equipment is more efficient, allowing HVAC units to reach desired temperatures faster and therefore saving on run time and energy costs.  High efficiency filters also generally do not have to be changed as frequently.  While this varies by situation, if you can even eliminate one periodic filter change it will save money on both material and labor expense. 

Equipment Performance
As discussed above, dirt and dust on equipment coils reduces the equipment efficiency when transferring heat or cooling to the air.  Therefore, upgrading the filter is a relatively easy way to improve both equipment performance and tenant comfort.  For example, the highest performance that can be expected from a MERV 6 filter is approximately 50 percent removal of 3-10 micron size particles.  A MERV 8 filter removes approximately 85 percent!  

Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality and the health of building occupants relate directly to the filter selection for a building.  Larger particles are easier for the body to naturally expel from the lungs, so a filter that removes a higher number of the small particles from the air is beneficial for occupant health.   The U.S. Green Building Council has designated MERV 13 filters as the minimum rating required to earn points toward LEED certification for indoor air quality. 

How do you choose which air filter is best for you? Talk with your maintenance team or HVAC vendor.  Ask them to help you identify the cost and payback of a few upgrade options. 


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