HEPA vs MERV air filters : What’s the Difference and which one’s better?

HEPA vs MERV air filters : What’s the Difference and which one’s better?

Good air filtration systems are a must have in any commercial building. Air filtration systems not only eliminate contaminated air inside a commercial building, but they also protect equipment inside the building e.g. computers from getting dirt and debris. There are so many air filtration systems in the marketplace but not all of them are created equal. HEPA and MERV filters are the most commonly used HVAC systems. However, majority of people tend to make the mistake of buying HVAC filters without first understanding the difference between HEPA vs MERV ratings. So what’s the difference between HEPA and MERV filters?

What is the difference between MERV and HEPA?

Here’s the difference between HEPA and MERV:

MERV filters

You might have heard of different MERV filters such as MERV 4, MERV 5 or even MERV 13 and wondered what it means. The acronym MERV generally stands for ‘Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value’. An air filter with MERV 1-4 means it has a low capture efficiency of air particles. Filters with MERV 5-12 means they are moderately efficient. Filters with MERV 13-16 on the other hand are advanced air filters capable of capturing microscopic air particles. The higher the MERV rating, the higher the filter’s efficiency in capturing particles. You want MERV 13-16 filters installed due to their efficiency and effectiveness.

HEPA filters

You may be wondering the difference between MERV 13 vs HEPA filters. The acronym HEPA generally stands for ‘High-Efficiency Particulate Air’. They have exceeded the ASHRAE test protocol 52.2 and hence they’re normally not MERV rated. ASHRAE test protocol 52.2 is a lab testing method used to measure the performance of air cleaning equipment. Here’s the main difference between HEPA vs MERV 13:

HEPA air filters are required to have a minimum efficiency of 99.97% (i.e. 0.3 microns). While HEPA filters are tested and certified to meet a specific particle size of 0.3 microns, MERV filters are tested through Dust Spot tests. Dust spot tests include powdered carbon, fine dust and cotton linters. The particle size in dust spot test ranges from 0.3 to 50 microns. The average particle size in dust spot tests is normally around 20 microns.

Another major difference between MERV vs HEPA filters is that HEPA filters are tested using materials such as mineral oil and DOP. These materials generate mono-dispersed particles  which are all 0.3 or lesser in size. This means that if for instance, 10000 0.3 micron sized particles are passes through a HEPA filter, only 3 particles will be allowed to pass through (that results to 99.97% efficiency) .  If you were using MERV filters, you’d only get about 50% efficiency on the 0.3 micron sized particles. This means that HEPA filters are at least 50% more effective at eliminating air particles in a room compared to MERV air filters.

Recommended: How A High Efficiency Fume Filtration System Works

MERV filter vs HEPA: Which one should you choose?

A MERV 13-16 VOC air purifier would be most ideal in a situation whereby airborne contaminants such as DPM and Beryllium pose a great risk to an operator. A HEPA filter on the other hand would be most ideal in a commercial building that requires the highest level of filtration due to regulations. If you would like to know more about our solder fume extractors and VOC air purifiers, please contact IP Systems USA.

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