MERV 8 vs MERV 11 Air Filters: Which Should I Use?

They may seem like they’re nearly the same thing, but MERV 8 air filters and MERV 11 air filters have some distinct differences. Moving up just three MERV rating levels can either be a smart move that makes the air cleaner or a detrimental option to your entire HVAC system when you take into account MERV 8 vs MERV 11 air flow capabilities.

That’s why some thought needs to be put into deciding between these two common air filters. If you’re trying to choose between a MERV 8 air filter and a MERV 11 air filter, here’s what you need to know.

Is a MERV 8 Air Filter Good Enough?

MERV 8 air filters are very common because it’s a pretty well-rounded option, so you might think that they’re great on price but bad on performance. They are affordable and can provide above average air filtration in homes. We aren’t surprised that MERV 8 air filters are the highest-rated products we sell.

When we get asked, “what does MERV 8 mean,” we tell our customers its professional performance at a reasonable cost.

A MERV 8 air filter can trap and block the following particles in the air:

Based on the aforementioned features, a MERV 8 is considered superior filtration compared to air filters with a lower MERV rating. But is it enough filtration? In many cases, a MERV 8 air filter is more than adequate. However, if you are worried about outdoor air pollution, family members with respiratory issues, pets are in the home, then going with a higher MERV rating might be a good idea.

Photo of a MERV 8 pleated air filter in Filterbuy packaging

MERV 8 air filters are almost as affordable as less efficient products, which makes them a good value.

Is MERV 11 Too High?

A MERV 11 air filter has a higher efficiency rating. Meaning, it can capture finer particles and clear more contaminants out of the air. But is MERV 11 too high for your needs?

Using an air filter with a MERV rating that’s too high is just as bad as using one that’s too low. Air filters with higher MERV ratings can filter more, but the thickness of the filter material can restrict airflow. Restricted airflow can decrease comfort, increase energy use, and accelerate the wear and tear of HVAC components. In particular, using an air filter with a MERV rating that’s too high can damage the compressor, heat exchanger, and air conditioner coil.

In most cases, a MERV 11 air filter isn’t too high for residential use. Generally speaking, anything under a MERV 13 air filter should provide very efficient air purification in a home without impacting airflow. Meanwhile, air filters with a MERV 14 rating or higher are designed for commercial HVAC systems that can handle the thicker filter material.

A MERV 11 air filter can trap and block the following:

Photo of a MERV 11 air filter in Filterbuy Pacakaging

  • Pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Mold
  • Large dust particles
  • Auto emissions
  • Fine air particles
  • Pet dander
  • Lint
  • Smoke
  • Smog
  • Bacteria

MERV 11 air filters are a little more expensive than a standard filter, but paying a few dollars more per filter is usually worth the added efficiency. Some situations warrant a higher MERV 11 rating. If anyone has an allergy or respiratory problem, go with a MERV 11 air filter or even a MERV 13 air filter. The same case goes for homes with smokers or pets since MERV 11 air filters are better at removing odors.


One thing to keep in mind is that a MERV 11 air filter may need to be changed a little more frequently than a MERV 8 air filter. The better an air filter is at trapping particles, the quicker it will get maxed out.

If you’re worried about the effects of breathing in fine air particles, that’s another reason to choose a MERV 11 air filter over a MERV 8 air filter. Fine air particles are 2.5 microns and smaller. At that size, the air particles can get into lung tissue and enter the bloodstream. MERV 11 air filters can filter out a large percentage of fine particles, but a MERV 8 air filter can’t.

shop MERV 11 rated air filters with Filterbuy

What is the Difference Between MERV 11 vs MERV 8 Air Filters?

We’ve gone over the major pros and cons of MERV 8 vs MERV 11 air filters. If you’re new to air filter selection, you might still be unsure which one is the top option despite the detailed explanation above. This comparison table helps highlight the differences between MERV 8 and MERV 11 filters so it would be easier to decide which one will work best.

Infographic that gives side by side comparison of MERV 8 air filter performance versus MERV 11 air filter performance

PerformanceMERV 8 Air FilterMERV 11 Air Fir Filter
Particle Size3.0 - 10.0 microns1.0 - 3.0 microns
% Particles Captured90%95%
Lasting Time3 months2 - 3 months
Level of UseseBasic - StandardStandard - Superior
Compared to Fiberglass20x better than fiberglass air filters30x better than fiberglass air filters
Rating ComparisonMPR 300/600 & FPR 5MPR 300/600 & FPR 5
Pleats Per Foot1414
Price Per Pleats Per Foot$8.54/ea$11.39

MERV Ratings Chart

Picking the right MERV rating is an important decision in terms of overall cost, air quality, product durability. The right MERV rating can ultimately improve the lifespan of your HVAC system.

Since the MERV rating system is standard, it makes comparing filters with different MERV ratings a little easier. Use the MERV rating chart below to take one last look at how MERV 8 and MERV 11 filters compare.

Infographic that shows the performance of MERV 1 through MERV 20 rated air filters

More About MERV Ratings

We’ve covered a lot of ground so far in our comparison of MERV 8 vs. MERV 11 air filters, but there are still a few common questions left to answer. Below we provide quick responses to a few general questions about MERV ratings.

What does MERV stand for?

MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Rating Value. It’s a standardized system that was created by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and is used by all air filter manufacturers. The rating values range from 1 (the lowest efficiency) to 20 (the highest efficiency).

What MERV rating should I get?

As noted above, the answer lies in a few factors. Each air filter has its pros and cons, but both MERV 8 air filters and MERV 11 air filters are appropriate for residential use.

What is MERV rating on filters?

Every air filter will have the MERV rating printed on it somewhere. The MERV rating is there to tell you how efficient the air filter is in filtering out particles of certain sizes. This affects the types of air pollutants the air filter is able to capture.