Just breathe. That’s advice we get a lot. But have you ever stopped to think about the air you’re breathing in your home? A nationally-recognized system, MERV, exists to educate consumers on the efficiency—and thus, the quality and value—of air filters. That’s because not all HVAC air filters are created equal.
But how do you know what air filter is best for you and your home? There are a few factors to consider—not the least of which is what your personal goals are for your indoor air quality (get rid of odors from pets or yesterday’s broiled salmon? Capture airborne toxins and chemicals? Lower the amount of dander and dust circulating in your air? To name a few).
This list of the top 10 air filters for your HVAC system includes all the leading brands, ranked in order based on customer reviews, along with MERV rating (for standard residential HVAC systems), pricing and purchase information.
But the question we should ask first is, what is the air filter MERV rating and does higher really mean better?
Do You Know MERV?
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioner Engineers, or ASHRAE, created MERV, the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, to judge the effectiveness of air filters.
The air filter MERV rating varies from 1 to 16. The higher the MERV value, the more efficient the filter is at trapping airborne particles such as dust, pollen, mold, and bacteria. It’s imperative to choose what air filter MERV rating is right for your environment. ASHRAE recommends MERV 6 or higher.
Can a High MERV Rating Actually Be...Bad?
The New York Times air quality expert Tim Heffernan says home air filters with a rating of 8 or above are “for people who care about indoor air quality.” They are “good to excellent at removing fine particulates (as small as 0.3 to 3.0 microns in diameter, including smoke and exhaust particles and bacteria),” plus anything larger of course.
In addition, MERV-master Kathleen Owen, who helped define the original ASHRAE standards, says a MERV rating of 8 for home air filters is the sweet spot that “covers [what] people are likely to breathe in.” The EPA, or Environmental Protection Agency, agrees the air filter MERV range of 7 to 13 is “nearly as effective as true HEPA filters at controlling most airborne indoor particles.”
But what happens when you head into double-digits?
For one, the price increases significantly. Home air filters with a MERV rating of 16 can cost upwards of $60 a piece, and if you change it at the recommended three-month mark, that adds up. “MERV ratings above 16 are typically used in specialized commercial settings where air filtration is critical, such as hospitals,” explains HVAC specialist Robert B. Payne. To help you decide if you need to hit the double-digit mark, determine the specific needs of the people in your home.
Additionally, the higher the air filter MERV rating, the more likely the filter will put stress on older HVAC equipment and make it less efficient. “Higher-rated filters allow less air to flow through your furnace,” says Payne. “It’s a good idea to check if your system has a maximum MERV rating.”
Does MERV Actually Matter?
MERV measures the amount of airborne particles a filter captures. What it doesn’t measure are the non-particle reductions such as odors and gases. That’s where Colorfil’s gas filtration technology changes the game.
Colorfil rates an 8 on the MERV scale (with MERV 13 coming soon!), allowing the filter to capture dust and pollen, as well as odors and chemicals in the air at a molecular level. So your home is cleaner and always smells like your home. Not last night’s dinner.
Created with direct support from NASA, Colorfil’s air filter technology was built to meet rigorous performance and safety requirements. Our patented color-shift ™ technology also allows you to see your filters working as they change color from pink to yellow as they remove chemicals and odors from your home. The EPA states, “Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, where the concentrations of pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.”
Still, we realize that many people may not want to spend $15-20 (depending on size) on a high-quality filter like Colorfil, and want something more basic. Thus, we’ve rounded up nine additional air filters with different strengths and weaknesses, for those that don’t have serious issues with odors, chemicals, et cetera.
Top 8 List of HVAC Air Filters with MERV Ratings and Reviews
Note: We used the standard 16 x 25 x 1 size for the pricing, MERV rating, and review score below. The review score was sourced at time of publication and may not be current. The filters below are listed in order from HIGHEST review rating to LOWEST review rating.
Have a suggestion for our list? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org—we’d love to hear from you.
Colorfil MERV 8 ($18 each):
Best for consumers who care about a higher quality of air enough to invest a little more, as Colorfil is 5x more effective at capturing and neutralizing airborne particles than the leading brand. Their NASA award-winning color-shift technology also turns color as it absorbs odors and chemicals.
4.8 Stars (official score on Shopify)
Second Nature MERV 8 ($16 each with a subscription):
Best for households looking for standard air filters that catch a variety of pollutants—and can be delivered right to their door as a subscription with free shipping. Note: Available by subscription only.
4.7 Stars (official score from Google.com)
Filterbuy MERV 8 ($18 each)
Best for households that regularly change their filters every 90 days and look for good customer service with fast shipping.
4.7 Stars (official score on Amazon.com)
NordicPure MERV 10 ($13 each in a 2-Pak)
Best for households looking to upgrade their air filter MERV rating at a reasonable price while eliminating some (35%) bacteria, smoke, and orors.
4.7 Stars (official score on Amazon.com)
HoneyWell MERV 11 ($12 each)
Best for those who want a mid-range filter for collecting contaminants but aren’t as worried about odor reduction.
4.6 Stars (official score on HomeDepot.com)
Filtrete MERV 13 ($21 each)
Best for those interested in 3M’s 3-in-1 technology that traps unwanted air particles such as dust, dander, or pollen.
4.5 Stars (official score on Lowes.com)
Flanders MERV 2 ($1 each in a 4-Pak)
Best for budget-conscious consumers interested in a standard quality filter that needs to be changed monthly for efficiency.
4.4 Stars (official score on HomeDepot.com)
Filti MERV 13 ($60 each)
Best for eco-minded consumers who want a wash-and-reuse filter with a high MERV rating to boot. Note: the website says they can be washed “several times” with no additional clarity on how long each filter lasts.
4.3 Stars (official score on Facebook.com)