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HVAC Filter Selection and MERV Ratings: What Does It All Mean?

By David Klenk, P.E. Mechanical Engineer In 1968, American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) created Standard 52.1 to test air filters using established techniques employed by the U.S. National Bureau of Standards and the Air Filter Institute. During the course of the past 40 years, this standard has been modified several times to reflect changing air filtration testing requirements. The version in use today, Standard 52.1-1992, evaluates filters based upon three key measurements: Arrestance. Designated as a percentage, the arrestance of the filter, or ability of a filter to remove synthetic dust, is calculated based upon the known weight of dust fed into a test unit under controlled conditions and the amount of weight added or captured by the filter. Atmospheric Dust Spot Efficiency. Designated as a percentage, two procedures can be used to calculate dust spot efficiency, which is the ability of a filter to remove atmospheric dust from the air. Both the intermittent flow method and the constant flow method rely upon white filter paper as a target and the ratio of light transmission. Sampling of atmospheric air is conducted at 25%, 50%, and 75% of dust loading and at final resistance. Efficiency is determined by an equation that incorporates total airflow through the upstream and downstream targets and opacity of dust spot on the upstream and downstream targets. Traditionally, engineers and designers have used the terms 30%, 60%, and 85% filters to indicate which type of filter to install. These terms refer to the dust spot efficiency of the filters. Dust Holding Capacity. Expressed in grams, dust holding capacity measures the amount of dust that a filter can hold. Synthetic test dust is fed into a filter and the final capacity is based upon the amount of dust held by the filter.

Standard 52.1 does not evaluate particle size and efficiency of the filter for a particular particle. It is not known what type and size of particles will be captured by the filter. For instance, a 30% filter (based on arrestance) means that 30% of the weight of the dust has been captured. Depending on the size of the dust particles the actual number of particles (and hence the percentage of particles) captured may be substantially less. MERV Defined To address the issue of particle size, ASHRAE 52.2 was issued in 1999 and modified in 2007 to complement, not replace, Standard 52.1, by enabling engineers/designers to select a filter based upon the actual known particle size of the contaminant desired to filter. Standard 52.2 indicates the lowest point of filter efficiency (which is normally right at the time of installation1). Filters are evaluated based upon initial efficiency as a function of one of 12 possible particle size ranges. Based on this data, a numerical value is assigned to a filter. This numerical value is designated as MERV: Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. MERV ratings are based upon specific airflow speeds which must be noted on the manufacturers data.

Note that synthetic filters are typically electrostatically charged and will have a greater efficiency at time of installation but will lose efficiency quickly as the charge is dissipated. ASHRAE 52.2 currently does not address the dissipation of the electric charge. Refer to the filter manufacturer literature or ask your local representative to determine if a filter is electrostatically charged.

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HVAC Filter Selection and MERV Ratings: What Does It All Mean?
Testing for MERV MERV ratings are created using the following testing process: 1. 2. Initial resistance versus airflow is measured. An optical particle counter measures and counts the particles in 12 equally distributed particle size ranges before and after the filter. 3. ASHRAE test dust is introduced to the filter in High Efficiency Particulate Air five predetermined steps (pressure drop across (HEPA) Filters filter increases by 0.04 water gauge (w.g.), 25% of manufacturers recommended final pressure Six types of high-efficiency filters are drop, 50% of manufacturers recommended final available; however only Type A filters are pressure drop, 75% of manufacturers typically used in GMP facilities. recommended final pressure drop and 100% of manufacturers recommended final pressure 1. Type A filters. Commonly known as drop). Industrial Grade, Type A filters are 4. Efficiency performance curves are developed used for GMP/industrial processing, based upon the optical particle counter data for hospitals, and non-critical areas. each of the six readings (one initial, and five Unlike the other filter types described loading steps). below, which are tested both at the 5. A composite minimum efficiency curve with the manufacturing facility and after lowest efficiency reading for the six readings for installation, Type A filters are tested at 12 particle size ranges is developed. the manufacturing facility only. 6. Twelve particle size ranges are placed in three 2. Type B filters. Commonly known as larger groups (E1, E2, and E3) and the Nuclear Grade, these filters are used percentages of each group are averaged. This for Department of Energy nuclear average is deemed the Particle Size Efficiency programs (test reactors, R & D, and which is the value used to determine the MERV weapons) and commercial reactors. rating based upon ASHRAE data. (See the 3. Type C filters. Commonly known as ASHRAE Application Guidelines chart listed on Laminar Flow Grade, Type C filters page 4 for additional information.) are used for laminar flow work stations, clean rooms, semiconductor Filter Selection and drug manufacturers. 4. Type D filters. Commonly known as Proper filter selection requires an understanding of Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) several factors: the type and size of particle/contaminant filters, these filters are used for to be removed; expected filter service life; and pressure semiconductor and drug drop. ASHRAE 52.1 and 52.2 should be used in manufacturers. conjunction with one another to make a final filter 5. Type E filters. Commonly known as selection. To help in the selection process, the following Bio/Hazard Grade, Type E filters are information will be required: used for hazardous biological containment facilities. Physical size of particulate. The chart on page 4 6. Type F filters. Commonly known as should be helpful in determining the MERV rating Ultra Low Penetration Air (ULPA) of the filter once the particulate size has been Grade, these filters are used at semidetermined. For example, if bacteria ranges from conductor facilities. 0.3 microns to 4 microns, the chart indicates a MERV 13 would be the minimum rating to select, and higher MERV-rated filters should be selected with the end users level of comfort and economics in mind. HEPA filter efficiencies are based upon 0.30 m particle sizes.

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HVAC Filter Selection and MERV Ratings: What Does It All Mean?
Service life of filters. Review the dust holding capacity in both ASHRAE 52.1 and the manufacturers product data to compare the relative service life of comparable filters. Additional service life can be obtained by simply increasing the depth of the filter (e.g., 2 deep to 4 deep). Initial and final pressure drop of filters. Review manufacturing product data to determine initial and final pressure resistance. The system should be able to provide design airflow throughout the entire loading process of the filters. Note that increasing the number of filters, and, therefore, the total surface area, will increase the service life of the filters but will not affect the final system pressure drop. Filter frame material. Determine if the filter will be in a wet or dry environment, and how it will be disposed. (For example, if incineration will be used, a metal frame would not be advisable.) Design airflow. Pre-filters and final filters should be matched for airflow compatibility and pressure drop. Physical space allotted for filter bank. Allow space for duct transition before and after the filter bank.

Remember, the filter rating is based upon the filter only and is tested during ideal lab conditions. Determination of the system rating must include the filter housing. The filter housing must be matched to provide the proper sealing of filters to the filter frame. An inexpensive, poor quality filter frame negates spending funds on a high-rated MERV filter. ASHRAE Application Guidelines Std 52.2 Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) Std 52.2 Particle size efficiency (%) E1 0.30 to 1.0 m 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a E < 75 75 E < 85 85 E < 95 95 E E2 1.0 to 3.0 m n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a E < 50 50 E < 65 65 E < 80 80 E 90 E 90 E 90 E 90 E n/a n/a n/a n/a E3 3.0 to 10.0 m E < 20 E < 20 E < 20 E < 20 20 E < 35 35 E < 50 50 E < 70 70 E 85 E 85 E 85 E 90 E 90 E 70 E 90 E 95 E n/a n/a n/a n/a < 20 < 20 < 20 < 20 < 20 < 20 25 E < 30 30 E < 35 40 E < 45 50 E < 55 60 E < 65 70 E < 75 80 E < 90 90 E < 95 E > 95 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a < 65 65 E < 70 70 E < 75 75 E < 80 80 E < 85 85 E < 90 E > 90 E > 90 E > 90 E > 95 E > 95 E > 95 E > 98 E > 98 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a Std 52.1 Dust Spot Efficiency (%) Std 52.1 Average Arrestance Efficiency (%)

17 99.97 < E 18 99.99 < E 19 99.999 < E 20 99.999 < E "E" indicates efficiency percentage

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HVAC Filter Selection and MERV Ratings: What Does It All Mean?

References ANSI/ASHRAE. Method of Testing General Ventilation Air-Cleaning Devices for Removal Efficiency by Particle Size. ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 52.2. 2007. ASHRAE. Chapter 24: HVAC Systems and Equipment. ASHRAE Handbook. 2004. Camfil Farr. ASHRAE Testing for HVAC Air Filtration: A Review of Standards 52.1-1992 & 52.2-1999. Technical Services Bulletin January 2001. Flanders Corporation. HEPA Filters and Filter Testing: PB-2007-1023. May 2004. Thornburg, Don. Filter Selection: A Standard Procedure. Engineered Systems June 2000: 74-80.

Advocacy: Hixson is a "No-Bias" Company At Hixson, we seek to serve as extended team members of our clients organizations, not as representatives of companies with outside concerns. Therefore, we do not accept income or incentives or sell/represent products from equipment suppliers, contractors or any company that could improperly influence our opinion. Because of this, Hixson ensures that the information we present is unbiased and has been developed in the best interests of our clients.

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