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How HEPA Filters Are Rated

When shopping for any sort of product, it’s always a great idea to look over the many choices provided to you. Research and reading is crucial when it comes to choosing something, especially if it’s a more serious purchase. When it comes to HEPA air purifiers and HEPA air filters, you’ll want to go for the best and most effective ones.

Most products have a rating and function scale. With HEPA filters, there are multiple variations that you can choose from, though some of them are reserved for professional spaces. Areas like hospitals, airports, and hotels also use HEPA filters, but you’ll see a lot of mention of “true” HEPA filters and true HEPA air purifiers. Unfortunately, there are some that aren’t up to HEPA standards. Despite that, all rated air filters should be checked and cleaned or you may have to change your HEPA filter often.

How are HEPA filters rated?

To understand how HEPA filters are rated, you must first understand what they do. Assuming you’ve never heard of these products, they filter air by pulling it through the purifier and capturing tiny particles in the air. These include microbes like pollen, mold spores, pet dander, and dust mites. These are not the only ones, of course, but this quality makes it great for allergies.

The rating of HEPA air filters are completely dependent on the sizes of particles they can capture. When looking for HEPA air filters, it will show a MERV rating. MERV means Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It is the standard that all air filters are rated through their process and effectiveness. You’ll see that HEPA air filters are usually rated from 15-20 on the MERV scale. Here is a handy guide from Wikipedia:

The MERV Rating Scale

The air filter rating ranges from 1-20 in the standard MERV chart. The higher the MERV rating, the more efficient it is at pulling articles from the air. As said earlier, a true HEPA filter will be in the top 5 of the MERV scale. You will likely not see too many non-professional air filters all the way at 20, considering they’re used in commercial spaces or hospitals.

  • Ratings 1-4

These are your normal minimal and air conditioning filter that can operate well enough to pull away dust mites and pollen. It isn’t enough to take away smoke or mold, though.

  • Ratings 5-8

This area is more mass-produced for industrial areas, taking out hair spray, cement dust, and other particles that might be harmful to humans. Mold spores are taken by these air filters, but these are more suited for commercial areas as well.

  • Ratings 9-12

Likely where you’ll find most of your quality air filters, this rating area is where you’ll find more heavy-duty air filtration. Mechanics, wielders, and superior residential and commercial buildings will employ the use of these air filters. This is also where you’ll find most of your HEPA filters if it’s not a “true” HEPA filter.

  • Ratings 13-16

These are the more sterile filter areas that you’ll find in general surgeries, hospital inpatient care, and smoking lounges. They will take away most tobacco smoke and all bacteria. This is likely all you’ll need if you want an air filter for your allergies and smoking habits. If not, you can likely settle on a 9-12 rating.

  • Ratings 17-20

While these are the true HEPA filters area, these are mostly used for cleanrooms, radioactive materials, and other pharmaceutical needs. You can put these in your home if you have bad allergy or asthma problems. They take most particles from the air, from carbon and combustion smoke to viruses that might go through the air.


True HEPA filters can be relatively expensive, considering they are used for radioactivity and cleanrooms. If you have bad allergies or mold problems, though, this is where you should be looking. Getting a true HEPA filter for your home will make things a lot better for your allergies or asthma, or if you simply want to improve your air quality.

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