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What is a MERV 13 and How Does it Compare to HEPA Filters?

Doctors walking down a hospital hallway

If you want to improve your facility's indoor air quality (IAQ), you will quickly learn that you can choose from multiple air filters. Air filters are designed to pull indoor air through their system and trap any harmful particles within their fibers. Numerous facilities and businesses use air filters to prevent the spread of bacteria and keep their people healthy. Two of the most popular air filters are MERV 13 and HEPA filters. Not all filters will work the same or have the same efficiency level. Let’s examine the differences between the two and why one may be better suited for your facility. 

What is a MERV Filter?

A filter’s minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV, is a rating system that measures how efficient a system is at trapping harmful particulate matter, dust, and debris that roams throughout the air. Generally, it is used to compare different filters. This system categorizes filters into a ranking from 2 to 20, with a MERV 8 being the standard. A higher MERV rating means that a system is more efficient. MERV 13 is recommended for many commercial and industrial buildings. At its minimum, a MERV 13 air filter traps less than 75% of air particles that are 0.3 to 1.0 microns in size. It is at least 90% effective when the particles increase to 3 to 10 microns in size. 


This budget-friendly option works to prevent contaminants from spreading throughout a building. However, if you are trying to determine which MERV filter is best for your building, do not assume that a higher ranking is the best option. Your HVAC system may not be designed to handle much air resistance. With a higher ranking, you will find that these filters have smaller pores, making it difficult for clean air to pass through smoothly. Make sure you choose a filter that will be compatible with your HVAC system. 

What is a HEPA Filter?

A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter targets the tiny particles within the air to help promote proper IAQ. Most HEPA filters are pleated and typically made of borosilicate glass, plastic, or fiberglass fibers. Trapping the particulate matter in the filter can greatly reduce the number of harmful particles in the air. These mechanical filters can remove particles smaller than 0.30 microns at a 99.97% efficiency, making them the perfect filter for healthcare and educational facilities. All HEPA filters have a MERV rating of 17 or higher. 

HEPA filters capture unwanted particles in one of three ways. Impaction occurs when particles crash into the surface of the filter. Typically, larger particles, 1 micron or bigger, are captured through this method. An interception occurs when the particles successfully pass through the screen and into the filter. Fibers intercept the particles and remove them from the air. Diffusion is the final attempt to remove particulate matter from the air. Gas molecules will move through the filter, causing the particles to crash into fibers. When this happens, they are permanently trapped and unable to continue their journey. 

Core Differences

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) developed the MERV charts in 1987. When the MERV rating system was created, it did not go high enough to include HEPA filters. It only exceeded a MERV 17, meaning anything greater was classified as HEPA. Over time, higher levels have been added to include these extremely proficient filters. MERV 13 air filters are excellent at removing large particles, while HEPA filters trap small particles more efficiently.


Another difference between a MERV 13 filters vs HEPA filter is the cost. Generally, a HEPA filter will have a higher price tag but are more beneficial for construction zones, medical facilities, and educational facilities. A standard office or department store can run smoothly on a MERV filter alone, but a HEPA filter is the better choice when you are worried about the health of those within your facility. 

Best HEPACART® Dust Containment and Air Filtration Systems for Your Working Area

When looking for an indoor air filtration system to improve your facility’s IAQ, you must ensure the equipment will be compatible with your HVAC system. Plus, the system will need to work at an efficiency level appropriate for your facility’s use. Healthcare or educational facilities require a more robust and efficient system than a standard commercial or industrial building. If you need a powerful system to help your facility have better IAQ, investing in equipment that uses HEPA filters is a great place to start. At HEPACART®, we provide dust containment, air filtration, and surface disinfection solutions to keep people safe in high-risk environments.



HEPACART Mobile Containment Cart 

Mobile containment carts provide dust containment and infection control in high-risk environments. Healthcare contractors designed the HEPACART® Classic and Auto Lift for healthcare contractors. These ceiling access carts have an embedded, fully tested, and certified negative air machine. Both utilize HEPAFORCE technology to clean the air within an area by efficiently removing dust.


HEPAFORCE® Air Filtration

When you need to clean and disinfect the air within your facility, our air filtration and purification machines are a great solution. To clean the air in a confined area, it creates positive or negative air pressure to disinfect and promote good IAQ. The health of those within your facility should be a priority, and there are harmful particles that can be a threat to their health. A GermBuster can prevent infection and particulate matter from spreading. 


Protect Your Facility

Taking steps toward better IAQ can seem overwhelming. Knowing which option is best for your facility can be difficult with so many choices and products. However, investing in air filtration solutions that will protect your facility and those in it is one of the most important things you can do as a facility manager. Air filtration can keep bacteria, dust, and harmful particles out of the air, so workers can do their jobs distraction-free. To learn more about what HEPACART offers, download our product pricing guide here

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