MERV 13 vs HEPA Filter: How Are They Different? Ava Montini July 28, 2023

MERV 13 vs HEPA Filter: How Are They Different?

Air filters are a vital component in maintaining good indoor air quality. Two of the most commonly used air filters are MERV 13 filters and HEPA filters. Both types of filters are designed to remove pollutants from the air; however, there are some key differences between them. 

different MERV filters

What are MERV 13 filters?

All traditional air filters are differentiated according to their MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating. The higher a filter’s MERV rating, the more effective it is at capturing airborne particles. MERV 13 and below are considered HVAC-system-grade filters for residential, commercial and general hospital use. 

MERV 13 filters can filter particles closer to 0.3 microns in size, which includes contaminants such as pollen, mould, dust, bacteria, pet dander, smoke and virus carriers. MERV 13 filters are typically used in residential and commercial HVAC systems to improve indoor air quality.

What are HEPA filters?

On the other hand, HEPA filters are considered the most efficient air filters available. HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air and has a rating of MERV 17 or higher. HEPA filters are designed to remove 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns or larger in size; This includes particles such as smoke, bacteria, and viruses. 

Since HEPA filters are so efficient, they cause a higher pressure drop than filters with MERV ratings. Given their high efficiency, HEPA filters are best suited for rooms where air quality is a concern, such as in hospitals, laboratories, and cleanrooms. Many ventilation systems are not designed for HEPA, but these filters are available as portable air cleaners or vacuum cleaners and can be used in homes to improve indoor air quality, particularly for people with allergies or respiratory issues. 

MERV 13 vs HEPA Filter: How Are They Different?

MERV 13 Filter

Pros of MERV 13 Filters:

  • Affordable and easy to find.
  • High Efficiency: MERV 13 filters can capture particles as small as 0.3 microns, making them highly effective at removing pollutants such as dust, pet dander, pollen, and even some bacteria and viruses from the air.

Cons of MERV 13 Filters:

  • Filter Efficiency: Not as effective as HEPA filters in removing the smallest and most harmful particles.
  • Maintenance: MERV 13 filters may need to be replaced more frequently than lower MERV-rated filters, which can add to the overall cost and maintenance of the HVAC system.
  • Compatibility: MERV 13 filters may not be compatible with all HVAC systems, and using a filter that is too efficient for a system can cause damage. Before using a MERV 13 filter, it is important to check if the HVAC system can handle the filter’s efficiency and pressure drop.
HEPA Filter

Pros of HEPA Filters:

  1. High efficiency: HEPA filters are highly efficient at trapping small particles, such as dust, pollen, and pet dander. Extremely effective at removing pollutants, including smoke, bacteria, and viruses.
  2. Long lifespan: HEPA filters are designed to last a long time, so they do not need to be replaced as frequently as other filters.

Cons of using a HEPA filter in an HVAC system include:

  1. High cost: HEPA filters can be more expensive than other types of filters, which can make them a less cost-effective option for some people.
  2. Decreased airflow: HEPA filters can reduce airflow through a standard HVAC system, which can make it less energy efficient and increase the amount of time it takes to heat or cool a room.
  3. Need for professional installation: HEPA filters are typically larger and more complex than other types of filters, which means they may need to be installed by a professional.

In conclusion, both MERV 13 and HEPA filters effectively improve indoor air quality, but they have different pros and cons depending on the setting and the level of air purity required. MERV 13 filters are more affordable and easy to find and effectively remove a wide range of pollutants. HEPA filters are extremely effective at removing pollutants, but they are more expensive and can be more difficult to find. 

It’s also important to consult a professional to determine the most appropriate filter for your setting, as the filter type and frequency of replacement can vary depending on the size and usage of the space, as well as the type of pollutants present in the air.