merv 11 vs merv 13

MERV 11 vs MERV 13 Explained

Every homeowner knows that their HVAC system keeps their house comfortable. However, providing warm and cool air isn’t the system’s only job. Your household HVAC unit also has the important task of keeping indoor air clean and healthy. It manages this with the help of its air filters. 

Being an HVAC specialist and allergic to dust mites, I have professional and personal experience with air filters. To decide which filters are suitable for you, I think it is best you consider your home’s present situation. Both MERV 11 and 13 are good for homes with needs for filtration and are in the same category, but which of them should you go for? In this article, we’ll go over the main differences between MERV 11 vs MERV 13 filters.

Bottom Line Up Front

To keep it simple, MERV 11 air filters and MERV 13 air filters does the exact same job. However, they each do it at significantly different levels. You should go for an air filter with MERV 11 rating if you have pets, many people, or anyone suffering from mild allergies.

Air filters with MERV 13 ratings are the best if your home is in need of severe filtration. Situations like multiple furry pets and people with severe allergies or asthma. It is also perfect if your environment is exposed to smoke or pollution.

Overall, if you want maximum results, I suggest you for MERV 13. The only issue you might find with MERV 13 air filters is the price and having to replace them more often.

air filter

Main Differences Between MERV 11 and MERV 13

The main differences between MERV 11 and MERV 13 are:

  • MERV 11 filters are more affordable, whereas MERV 13 filters are more expensive.
  • MERV 11 filters can only catch 20% of smaller particles, whereas MERV 13 filters can catch about 50% of tiny particles.
  • MERV 11 filters can be replaced every 2, whereas MERV 13 filters must be changed monthly.

MERV 11 and 13 serve the same purposes, only at different levels. MERV 11 filters catch bigger particles and only 20% of tiny ones. While MERV 13 filters catch the majority of smaller particles.

So What Is the Job of the Air Filters?

The air filters catch the contaminants whenever your heater or air conditioner is circulating air. Particles of dust, dirt, pollen, and other pollutants in the air get trapped in these filters. That way, when the oxygen reaches the different rooms of your home, there aren’t nearly as many contaminants for you and your family to breathe.

So, these filters help prevent you from breathing dirty, unhealthy air. As a result, you avoid problems like sore throat, respiratory issues, and unpleasant allergy symptoms. That said, not all HVAC air filters are the same. Some filters can catch more particles than others, and some can trap specific contaminants that others cannot. 

What Are MERV Ratings?

As you browse different air filters, you’ll consistently see a “MERV rating” for each one. MERV, which stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, is a metric that measures how effectively air filters catch contaminants in the air. If one filter has a MERV rating higher than another, it means that the filter can trap a higher percentage of particles. MERV ratings can be anywhere from MERV 1 to MERV 20.

A filter’s MERV rating is calculated based on how well it can trap particles that are between 0.3 and 10 microns. A micron is a unit of measurement for tiny objects. For most households, the air filters will be between MERV 8 and 13. If your filters are lower than MERV 8, you will probably have a lot of contaminants in your home’s air. On the other hand, filters rated above MERV 13 are usually overkilled for most normal homes.

When shopping for new HVAC air filters for your house, you first should decide what MERV rating you want. That will significantly narrow down your choices and make the process simpler. You’ll want to consider two options: MERV 11 filters and MERV 13. Both types are very common, and each has advantages and disadvantages.

MERV 11 Air Filters

First, let us examine MERV 11 air filters. 

Generally, a MERV 11 rating is pretty high. In most households, filters with this rating will do an excellent job of keeping the air nice and clean. However, there are exceptions. For some homeowners, MERV 11 is either too high or too low to meet the needs of their household. 

Filtration Efficiency of MERV 11 Air Filters

One of the main things to pay close attention to when it comes to a filter’s MERV rating is the filtration efficiency rating. The filtration efficiency rating measures what percentage of particles of a specific size the filter will catch on average. For example, an air filter might have a filtration efficiency of 80% for particles between 3 and 10 microns. That means it catches approximately 80% of the particles in that size range.

The filtration efficiency rating for MERV 11 air filters is around 85% for particles between 3 and 10 microns. This is an excellent rating and should be plenty effective for most homes. As for particles between 1 and 3 microns, a filter with a MERV 11 rating will catch approximately 65% of them. 

Lastly, a MERV 11 filter will successfully trap around 20% of the tiniest particles, between 0.3 and 1 micron. While 20% may not sound very high, it’s significantly higher than what you’d get from a MERV 8 filter. Overall, MERV 11 filters effectively trap airborne contaminants and maintain clean air.

Which Contaminants Will a MERV 11 Air Filter Catch?

Many different types of contaminants can be floating around your home’s air. Some of these air pollutants are significantly larger than others. For the most part, a MERV 11 filter can trap most of the larger contaminant particles. 

This includes: 

  • Dust
  • Dust mites
  • Pollen, and
  • Mold spores

A filter with a MERV 11 rating will also catch a high percentage of contaminants that are a bit smaller, like: 

  • Pet dander
  • Smoke
  • Smog, and
  • Many types of bacteria

Some of these smaller particles will get past a MERV 11 filter, but it will trap far more of them than a MERV 8 air filter would.

merv 11

How Often Should MERV 11 Air Filters Be Replaced?

One of the essential tasks for any homeowner is regularly replacing the HVAC air filters. If you neglect to do so, the filters will become packed with contaminants. Eventually, they’ll become clogged, making it much harder for the HVAC system to do its job. So, how often do you need to replace MERV 11 air filters?

First, knowing that every household’s answer is different is essential. Many variables factor into how often you should change air filters. The size of your home, the number of people living with you, and how often you use your HVAC system should all be considered. 

Generally, MERV 11 air filters should be switched out approximately every two months. 

Because MERV 11 filters catch a lot of contaminants, they can get dirty quickly. If you live somewhere with extreme temperatures or have many people in your household, you may want to replace the MERV 11 air filters monthly.

Who Should Use MERV 11 Air Filters?

MERV 11 air filters are an excellent choice for most residential homes. While MERV 8 filters work fine for many households, MERV 11 filters are a better choice if you want exceptionally clean air.

  • Homes with many people – MERV 11 filters will be very effective if you have young children or older adults. 
  • If you have pets – MERV 11 air filters are also great if you have pets.
  • People with mild health issues – If you or anyone in your home suffers from mild health issues like allergies, then MERV 11 will be a good choice. 
  • Polluted areas – Air filters with MERV 11 ratings are also a smart choice if you live in an area with moderate pollution levels. For example, if you live in the middle of a big city with many industrial buildings, these filters will do an excellent job of filtering out the smog and other pollutants. 
  • Homes with a lot of smoke – MERV 11 filters are effective if you also live in an area with smoke from wildfires. 

merv filter


Overall, air filters rated MERV 11 will do the job well for any residential household.

MERV 13 Air Filters

Now, we will take a look at MERV 13 air filters. 

Filters with a MERV 13 rating are typically the highest rated filters used in homes. These air filters are incredibly effective at trapping contaminants and do a fantastic job of keeping the air clean.

Filtration Efficiency of MERV 13 Air Filters

MERV 13 air filters have very impressive filtration efficiency numbers. When it comes to the larger particles between 3 and 10 microns, they catch about 90% of them. So, you and your family will breathe in very little dust, pollen, and mold spores. MERV 13 filters will also trap an impressive 85% of particles between 1 and 3 microns. For the very tiny contaminant particles between 0.3 and 1 micron, air filters with MERV 13 ratings will catch around 50% of them.

As you can see, MERV 13 air filters offer a significant step up from MERV 11 filters. That isn’t to say that MERV 11 filters don’t do an excellent job of catching contaminants. However, the difference between the two types of filters is pretty significant.

Which Contaminants Will a MERV 13 Air Filter Catch?

First off, HVAC air filters with a MERV 13 rating will be able to trap all of the contaminants that MERV 11 filters can catch. That means they will catch: 

  • Dust
  • Dust mites
  • Pollen
  • Mold spores
  • Pet dander
  • Smoke, and
  • Smog

Additionally, MERV 13 air filters will catch many of the tiniest contaminants that will usually get past a MERV 11 filter. 

This includes a wide variety of: 

  • Tiny viruses, and
  • Germs

Overall, having MERV 13 air filters on your HVAC system will remove nearly all of the airborne contaminants from your home. The oxygen that you and your family breathe will be extremely high-quality.

Best MERV 13 Air Filters Guide

How Often Should MERV 13 Air Filters Be Replaced?

Because MERV 13 air filters do an excellent job of catching pollutants, they often get dirty quickly. So, if you want to keep them clean, you should consistently switch them out for clean ones. 

On average, you should replace your MERV 13 air filters at least once monthly. During the hottest and coldest times of the year, you may even want to check the filters every two or three weeks. Remember; the more often you replace your air filters, the more effective they’ll be, and the cleaner your air will be.

It’s also important to remember that you can always check the status of your air filters visually. If you check your MERV 13 filters after a month, and they still seem clean, you can probably wait a bit longer. What matters is that you remember to at least check them. If you replace them before they get too full of contaminants, your air and HVAC system should stay healthy.

Who Should Use MERV 13 Air Filters?

Although most residential homes probably don’t need MERV 13 air filters, they will work well for all household situations.

  • Homes with multiple pets – If you live with several furry pets, you should use MERV 13 air filters. 
  • Homes with small children or older adults – MERV 13 filters will do a great job of keeping the air clean. They will do the same job as the MERV 11 air filters, only better this time. 
  • People with severe asthma or allergies – Due to its maximum capabilities at catching tiny microns, MERV will be the best for you if you or anyone at home suffers from severe health issues like allergies and asthma. 
  • Homes exposed to smoke and pollution – These filters are also perfect for living in areas with high pollution levels or large amounts of smoke. Even homes with the most extreme air quality needs will be served well by MERV 13 air filters.


MERV 13 air filters are frequently used in commercial buildings, pharmacies, surgical facilities, and other places requiring high-level filtration. If you want to go the extra mile to keep the air clean in your home or office, filters with a MERV 13 rating will satisfy your needs.

air filter merv 13

How Should You Decide Between MERV 11 and MERV 13 Air Filters?

You should consider several factors when choosing which HVAC air filters to purchase for your home. Every household situation is unique, so it’s essential to consider your family’s needs and circumstances. 

The situation of your homes

Most importantly, you should consider the people and animals in your home. MERV 11 and MERV 13 air filters are fine for homes with pets, but if you have several pets that shed a lot, MERV 13 filters may be a better choice.

Also, if anyone in your home suffers from severe allergy symptoms, asthma, or breathing problems, it may be worth going with MERV 13 air filters. With more mild allergies or asthma, MERV 11 air filters should do a good job overall.

Your environment

You should also consider the environment where you live. If you live in an area with very clean air, such as out in the country or surrounded by trees, MERV 11 air filters should be more than good enough. However, if your area regularly has smoke, smog, and other pollution, it may be better to use MERV 13 air filters. They will be able to deal with even the most severe levels of air pollution.

If you’re having difficulty deciding which air filters to purchase, you can get help from local professionals. Many HVAC companies offer indoor air quality services. For one, they can provide products and services to help you keep your air clean.

They can also evaluate your household and help you decide whether MERV 11 filters or MERV 13 filters are a better fit for your situation.


Question: Is MERV 11 too restrictive?

Answer: A MERV 11 air filter isn’t usually too high for residential use. Anything less than a MERV 13 air filter should provide efficient air purification in a home without interfering with airflow.

Question: Do MERV 13 filters help with Covid?

Answer: A filter’s Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV) indicate its ability to capture particles. Filters with MERV-13 or higher ratings can capture smaller particles such as viruses.

Question: Does MERV 11 filter smoke?

Answer: Yes. A MERV 11 filter captures pet dander, smoke, smog, and airborne particles from coughs and sneezes. If you have children or pets, a MERV 11 is a must. Many of the most common air pollutants and irritants will be removed. Allergy sufferers will undoubtedly benefit from one of these as well.

Question: Are some air filters more energy-efficient than others?

Answer: Yes, certain HVAC air filters are more efficient than others. For air filters to do their job and catch contaminants, they must provide resistance to the air as it passes through. And if an air filter has a higher MERV rating, it offers more resistance than lower-rated filters. For example, a MERV 13 filter will provide more resistance than a MERV 11 filter.

MERV 11 vs MERV 13: Conclusion

When it comes down to it, MERV 11 air filters and MERV 13 air filters are both very effective at catching airborne contaminants. The major difference between the two is how much filtration your home needs. 

If you want to buy filters for a residential home, MERV 11 air filters and MERV 13 air filters will probably be excellent choices. While you’re making your choice, you should be sure to consider many different factors and decide what your main priorities are. Each type of filter has pros and cons, but your indoor air should be clean and healthy either way. 

This article contains everything you need to know about MERV 11 vs MERV 13 air filters.

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