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. 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.

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

If you’re new to air filter selection, you might be unsure which MERV is the right option for you. Let's get right into it with this handy comparison chart to break down the differences between MERV 8 and MERV 11air filters.

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

Is a MERV 8 Air Filter Good Enough?

MERV 8 air filters are very common because it’s a pretty well-rounded option. 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 it's 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 in the home, then going with a higher MERV rating might be a good idea.

MERV 8 air filters are affordable and provide superior filtration, 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 might not be good for your system.

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. Just make sure to check with your HVAC system requirements to find out if MERV 11 isn't the right fit.

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.

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What is the benefit of MERV 11 filter?

The benefit of a MERV 11 filter lies in its ability to capture a higher percentage of airborne particles compared to filters with lower MERV ratings, such as MERV 8. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, and the scale ranges from 1 to 20. The higher the MERV rating, the finer the filtration, meaning more and smaller particles are trapped by the filter.

A MERV 11 filter can trap particles as small as 1.0 to 3.0 microns with a higher efficiency than a MERV 8 filter. This includes common allergens and irritants such as:

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

By capturing these smaller particles, MERV 11 filters can significantly improve indoor air quality, which is beneficial for individuals with allergies, asthma, or other respiratory conditions. They help in reducing the amount of dust and allergens circulating through your HVAC system and settling in your living space, thus contributing to a cleaner, healthier indoor environment.

It's important to note, however, that while MERV 11 filters offer improved air filtration, they can also impose more resistance to airflow than lower-rated filters. This means your HVAC system needs to work harder to push air through the filter, which could potentially affect the system's efficiency and lifespan. It's always a good idea to consult with an HVAC professional to ensure that your system can handle a higher-rated filter like MERV 11 without any adverse effects.

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.

MERV 8 vs MERV 11 Air Flow

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.

MERV 8 vs MERV 11 Comparison Chart

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.

Is MERV 11 better than MERV 8?

MERV ratings range from 1 to 20, with higher numbers indicating filters that can capture smaller particles. A MERV 8 filter is considered suitable for residential settings, capturing particles like pollen, dust mites, and mold spores. MERV 11 filters are more efficient, capturing additional particles such as pet dander, smoke, and smog, making them better for individuals with allergies or respiratory issues.

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).

Does MERV 11 restrict airflow?

Yes, a MERV 11 filter can restrict airflow more than lower MERV-rated filters due to its denser filtration material designed to capture smaller particles. While this increased efficiency improves indoor air quality by trapping finer particles like pet dander, smoke, and mold spores, the denser material can also reduce the air flow rate through the HVAC system. This can potentially lead to increased energy consumption and strain on the HVAC system, as it has to work harder to circulate air through the more restrictive filter. It's important to balance the benefits of improved air quality with the potential impact on system performance and consult with an HVAC professional to ensure compatibility.

Is Merv 8 good enough for home?

Yes, a MERV 8 filter is generally considered good enough for most homes, especially those without special air quality needs. MERV 8 filters are capable of capturing common airborne particles such as pollen, dust mites, and mold spores, which are the primary concerns in typical residential settings. They strike a balance between air filtration efficiency and maintaining adequate airflow through the HVAC system, minimizing the risk of reduced system performance or increased energy costs associated with higher MERV ratings. For households without individuals suffering from severe allergies, asthma, or other respiratory conditions, MERV 8 filters provide a practical level of air quality improvement without the potential drawbacks of more restrictive filters.

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.