Calendar icon February 6, 2023

What MERV Rating Should I Use?

Is a MERV 8 filter, MERV 10 filter, or MERV 13 filter right for your home?


As you may know, we at Second Nature offer a selection of three differently rated air filters: Our Essential (MERV 8), Essential+ (MERV 10), and Health Shield (MERV 13). So, which one is right for you?

As you try to make this decision, you'll need to answer several important questions: What if I have allergies? How different is each MERV rating? What's the best filter if I have a pet? Will any of these filters make my HVAC system work less efficiently? Who got sent home on The Bachelorette last week?

In this week's blog, we have the answers to all of these questions and so much more. Don't be MERVous. After you finish reading, we guarantee you'll know what you need to know about MERV ratings so you can make an informed decision.

Already know what you need? Go ahead of check filters off your to-do list right now!

To kick things off, we'll give you a basic rundown of everything MERV.

  • What exactly is MERV?
  • How does the MERV rating system work?
  • What's pressure drop?
  • Essential MERV 8 Filter
  • Essential+ MERV 10 Filter
  • Health Shield MERV 13 Filter

What is MERV Rating?

MERV, otherwise known as Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, is a system used to evaluate the efficiency of an air filter based on how effective it is at catching particles of varying sizes. Basically, the higher the MERV rating, the higher the air filtration capabilities of a particular filter.

How does the MERV rating system work?

Well, MERV ratings range from 1 to 20, with 1 being the lowest level of filtration, and 20 being the highest. Filters that are MERV 16 through 20 are usually only found in hospitals, cleanrooms, and nuclear power plants. The home air filters you're looking for have a MERV rating anywhere between MERV 5 and 13. We, however, do not endorse any filter that has a MERV rating lower than a MERV 8, and filters below MERV 5? We don't even talk about those.

Filters rated below a MERV 5 are basically the wet socks of air filters. Please don't use them and embarrass your air return like that. Your indoor air quality deserves better.

MERV ratings are determined by a filter's effectiveness at filtering particles of different sizes. Specifically, we're talking about 12 differently sized particles from 0.3 to 10 micrometers (µm) in diameter that were created in a laboratory environment. For reference, a human hair is about 50 µm, and the smallest particles that can be identified by the human eye are about 40 µm. These 12 particles are then divided up into three different size ranges (E1, E2, and E3), and four subranges that exist within each range. The first range, E1, includes particles sized 0.3 to 1.0 µm. E2 includes particles sized 1.0 to 3.0 µm, and E3 encompasses particles sized 3.0 to 10.0 µm.

The next step in the MERV ratings test? Each filter will go through six tests per particle size (72 tests total) to determine its MERV rating. In each test, the total number of particles in the test will be counted before being sprayed through the filter, and then counted again after. The end count compared to the total amount of particles is then converted into a percentage representing how many particles were successfully filtered out of the air. The worst percentage out of the six tests is selected as the official measurement used to determine a filter's MERV rating. That's where the minimum in MERV comes from. If we didn't use the worst score, it would just be called ERV, which is nowhere near as cool of a name.

Check out this chart below for more on E1, E2, and E3 particles:


Now, on to pressure drop!

What's pressure drop?

In simple terms, pressure drop is basically air resistance. Your air filter is a literal barrier between your HVAC system and your vents, and that slows the ability of air to get pulled through your vents to your actual system. How much your HVAC’s air flow is slowed by a filter is equivalent to its pressure drop.

Pressure drop varies based on the MERV filter. Filters that are more tightly woven make it harder for air to pass through. This creates a decrease in air flow and a higher pressure drop. As long as you have an air filter installed in your air return, there's no way to avoid pressure drop.

Even MERV 1 - 4 fiberglass filters have a pressure drop, though it is minimal. These cheap filters will have little impact on air flow at the expense of having little impact on air quality. The reason that pressure drop is so low for a fiberglass filter is because it is extremely porous and as a result, ineffective at filtering. Finer particles will have no problem at all getting through a fiberglass filter, and those that are larger will be filtered out less effectively than by a pleated filter.

Really fiberglass? C' mon, you literally have one job.

Pleated filters that are MERV 8 to 13, unlike fiberglass, can both filter out small particles effectively and diminish pressure drop (this here is as close to MERVana that you can get). Even though pleated filters do have a slightly higher initial pressure drop, it is not so significant as to cause any harm to your HVAC system, as long as you’re changing your filters regularly.

Be aware that as time goes on, more dirt, dander, mold, and dust will be trapped by your filter, reducing air flow and therefore increasing pressure drop. So, make sure you’re replacing your air filter regularly to prevent this from happening. A filter replacement every two to three months will do the trick to make sure your HVAC system sees no decrease in functionality.

Ok, now that we've got all of that covered, it's time to meet the MERV filters.

Essential MERV 8 Filter

First up, it's Essential, our MERV 8 filter.

What does an Essential filter out of the air? It takes care of all the basics: pollen, dust, dust mites, mold, and bacteria.

Who should own a Essential? Homeowners who don't live near smoke pollution and who don't share a household with any allergy-suffers or pets.

What's the filtration efficiency? To be classified as a MERV 8 filter according to NAFA (National Air Filtration Association), a filter must filter out at least 70% of E3 (3.0-10.0 µm) particles and 20% of E2 (1.0-3.0 µm) particles. Essential actually exceeds that requirement. In addition to 70% of E3 particles, it also filters out 30% of E2 particles and 1.9% of E1 (0.3-1.0 µm) particles. Since it is a MERV 8 filter, it isn't designed to catch the smallest of small particles that fall into the E1 category, like pet dander. In addition, after conducting standard dust tests, it was found that Essential had an arrestance rate of 81.5%. This means that 81.5% of dust particles fed into the MERV filter were successfully filtered out of the air.

Okay, so how about pressure drop? Our pressure drops tests were conducted at pretty standard air flow rates for the average HVAC system. At these rates, we found that Essential's initial pressure drop is around 0.024". This is very low, and barely different from the pressure drop of a MERV 1-4 fiberglass filter.

Try Essential

Essential+ MERV 10 Filter

Next, we'd like to introduce our Essential+ filter. This is our MERV 10 and mid-level MERV filter.

What does a Essential+ filter out of the air? Everything that the Essential does, so pollen, dust, dust mites, mold, and bacteria. In addition, you can say goodbye to that pet dander that's been floating around.

Who is a Essential+ perfect for? Pet owners, of course! Also, anyone who has mild allergies or is just looking for additional filtration.

How efficient is it? MERV 10 filters should remove at least 85% of E3 particles, 65% of E2 particles, and 20% of E1 particles from the air. Our Essential+ filter removes a minimum of 87.9% of E3 particles, 65.6% of E2 particles, and 24.4% of E1 particles. You know nothing much, just going above and beyond as usual. In the standard dust tests we conducted, Essential+ had a total particle arrestance of 92.5% (Sorry Lite, Micro's got you beat).

What about pressure drop? Our Essential+ filter has an initial pressure drop that's slightly higher than the Essential+, but not by anything significant as it comes in at about 0.03 WG. This is no surprise as this filter does provide an extra level of filtration.

Try Essential+

Health Shield MERV 13 Filter

Last, but most definitely not least, we have our Health Shield MERV 13 filter. This filter has our highest MERV rating.

What does a Health Shield filter out of the air? The answer to this, my friend, is a whole lot. For starters, it filters everything that a Health Shield does, which includes pollen, dust, dust mites, mold, bacteria, and pet dander. Then, it also filters out cooking oil smoke, smoke, smog, AND virus carriers. What else is left? We sure can't think of anything.

Who should own a Health Shield filter? Homeowners with more than one pet in the home and those who have severe allergies.

People that live in heavily polluted areas or experience smoke pollution in the summertime will benefit from a Health Shield, as smoke particles are very small and hazardous to your health.

How about efficiency? As specified by NAFA, to be labeled as MERV 13, a filter must successfully remove at least 90% of E3 particles, 85% of E2 particles, and 50% of E1 particles. Our Health Shield filter removes a minimum average of 97.2% of E3 particles, 85.5% of E2 particles, and 50.2% of E1 particles. As you can see, this filter is extremely effective. In standard dust tests that were conducted, our Health Shield filter had a total particle arrestance of 98.1% (Looks like we have a winner).

How's the pressure drop looking? Since it does provide the highest level of filtration, the Health Shield filter has the highest initial pressure drop at about 0.053 WG, which still should not pose any threat to your HVAC system.

Try Health Shield

Well, there you have it. Now you're a MERV ratings expert and the time has come to choose your fighter. Will it be Essential, Essential+, or Health Shield? Make your choice here.


Just an FYI, but filters ranging from MERV 1 through MERV 4 typically only remove less than 20% of E3 particles. One more time for the people in the back, anything under MERV 5 = very bad.

Keep learning

How to Optimize Operational Frequency with Processes and Software

Property management software is currently helping property managers establish efficient and reliable processes at a higher rate than ever before in the PM industry. With that development in the proptech industry has come the development of tech for self-managers that has changed the capacity of the accidental landlord. Thus, the demand for efficiency at scale has risen in order to separate the professional from the amateur, and the establishment of processes that allow such a thing has become a critical topic for professional property managers. Optimizing property management processes Carter Fleck of Triton Property Management, a growth-oriented firm out of northern Virginia that is approaching 300 units with larger goals for 2024, joins us to share his expertise on process definition. Fleck is the General Manager responsible for operations and strategic growth, and he has been developing effective processes to ensure efficiency at Scale at Triton, and in the process, he has garnered an understanding of how to do so. “A lot of failing,” says Fleck. “In the early days, we were getting a lot of good and bad feedback, but typically the bad feedback is what you adjust off of.” Fleck believes that assumptions are the enemy when it comes to defining procedures and sourcing software for your PMC. “The image that we use is if you're going to build a sidewalk before people even start walking on a field, it's kind of dumb. You have to see where people will walk first, and then you'll build a gravel path. So number one, you see where they walk, see where their intentions are in the grass, then you build a gravel path. And then eventually, once that walkway is established, that's where you build your processes and procedures.” The analogy is a visualization of the concept that you have to see how people operate before you can establish processes to make how they operate more efficient. Fleck encourages the negative experiences of process breakdown and cites them as the only way to really nail down what your processes should look like. “Over time, between the tenants giving feedback and owners giving feedback, we adjusted our processes. It's a mix between figuring out where the owners walk and where the tenants walk, and then building paths that align.” Fleck details an example of how Triton adjusted its process after an assumption it made got challenged: "We had an assumption that payment plans were helpful for residents," says Fleck. "And so the way we handled delinquency is we would reach out to them and would be like, ‘you need to pay this. Do you have a payment plan option?’ And they would always say yes. Our process was we'll put you on a payment plan, we'll invite you to a payment plan, you'll accept the payment plan, and then we'll monitor the payment plan. That in itself was a lot of work, but we thought it was doing well. But some of the owners that we had managed for mentioned that another property manager doesn't allow any payment plans. And if you're not fully paid up by the end of the month, then the eviction process starts if you’re over $500 due. So we're like 'alright, well, we'll serve you in that we'll change our processes.' And we did, and our delinquency percentage shrunk significantly. So, consistently, by the end of every month, we're around 5% APR. Whereas with payment plans we're like 5 to 10%.” Fleck obviously credits seeing the assumptions in motion as what prompted the need for process iteration, and he firmly believes that making too many of these assumptions is one of the biggest mistakes growing property management companies make. Like any business experiencing growth, process definition is critical to achieve efficiency at larger volumes. What Fleck is essentially advocating for is processes based on what you know, not what you think, and there is a big distinction. Managing property management software Fleck has installed both general and tech-based processes, and cites that understanding of how people interact with processes as the key in both areas. "They don't focus on user experience. That's really important. Number one, how the tenants like the tech, but specifically how the people who are using the tech are gonna adopt it. So when we were choosing a rent inspection software, we had so many people recommend one, software and I, we almost pulled the trigger on it. But then I was like, let's do a trial run on both these two. And we chose the other one because it was way better user experience for property managers. So user experience, both for us and for residents." Tech is a tool that is ultimately as good as its users, and if it's not used correctly or at all, its potential is wasted. An over-reliance on technology can actually go hand-in-hand with an under-reliance, as both often spring up from a lack of understanding of how to choose, implement, and manage it. In this vein, Fleck can't recall many property managers who operate with too much tech. As long as you're not purchasing redundant software and you've done and continue to do your due diligence, tech-based process can make your business more efficient. "I more often find myself having that conversation," says Fleck. "When I'm talking to property managers in my sub-market, who aren't connected with like a NARPM, who aren't connected with like a Crane group, or who aren't connected with a Second Nature, aren't connected to the tune of what the property management industry is doing and the cutting edge of it, I'm just like, 'you could save so much of your time and you could scale this so much more if you only even if you just had tenant Turner, or if you had LeadSimple.'" No matter what your story is a property manager, if growth is in the cards, so is process and technology refinement. Hopefully, Fleck's experience in these areas can help you stay efficient and organized as door counts grow.

Calendar icon April 19, 2024

Read more

Why offer a tenant benefits package?

In the residential real estate sector, like everywhere else, residents and property investors alike are getting younger – and with this generational shift comes expectations for a certain level of convenience and support. To put it bluntly, today’s residents want their needs proactively anticipated. It’s something they're willing to pay (and stay) for. That’s where a tenant benefits package comes in. In this article, we’ll explore what a tenant benefit package is, how it improves the experience for both property managers and tenants, and crucial mistakes to avoid. Before we get into the details, we want to give a shoutout to our very own “Resident Benefits Package” – which is how we refer to the benefits comprised in the “tenant benefits package.” “Tenant” is not yet a legacy term, but we here at Second Nature are trying to evolve it. That’s because, in our experience, property managers work hard to make renters feel like they’re not just parties to a contract – they’re residents. On one hand, this is just humans being humans, but on the other hand, it also encourages them to invest in care for their new home and add value to the property. Ready to get started now? Build your Resident Benefits Package today. What is a tenant benefits package? A tenant benefits package is typically a bundle of services, conveniences, and provisions offered by a property manager on top of the basic lease agreement. They represent a triple-win situation for property managers, residents, and property owners, as they enhance the overall rental experience, generate additional income, and protect the real estate investment. It might include conveniences such as online monthly rent payment options, or portals for submitting maintenance requests and tracking their status. It could also include various financial perks, such as credit rating improvements that are contingent on on-time rental payments, or discounts on nearby services such as fitness centers. It might also include amenities ranging from move-in concierge or utility set-up services, to identity protection services, to HVAC filter delivery. The cost for resident benefits packages is typically included in the lease and added as a monthly fee, with the fee being dependent on the specific benefits. Indeed, the benefits contained in a tenant benefits package will vary depending on the property manager and the type of rental property. The overall goal is to provide tenants with an enhanced quality of life while simplifying the experience of renting. At Second Nature, we pioneered the only fully managed resident benefits package, in response to PMs who wanted to make their business stand out. Our RBP includes an array of services and supports for residents, from filter delivery to credit building to maintenance. Why should property managers offer a tenant benefits package? Beyond the triple-win considerations mentioned just above, there are compelling and concrete reasons why property managers should offer tenant benefit packages. We'll turn to these now. Ancillary revenue Some tenant benefit packages include optional services or add-ons that can generate additional revenue streams for the property manager. This might include things like renter insurance or HVAC filter delivery. Resident experience Tenant benefit packages deliver numerous savings and value to tenants, beyond the value they would get if they were obtaining the same benefits "à la carte." Additionally, by offering additional services and conveniences, benefit packages can make tenants feel valued and more satisfied with their living experience. For instance, maintenance hotline requests, tenant portals, and air filter replacements all make life easier. Add-on services like identity theft protection can offer a sense of security. And discounted renters insurance coverage, utility concierge services, or other perks can save tenants money. Decrease tenant turnover and vacancy rates In a competitive rental market, tenant benefit packages can be a major differentiator toward boosting retention rates and reducing vacancy rates. Properties that offer these packages can also attract a wider pool of qualified tenants, and potentially command higher rents. Note that certain benefits in the package, like online rent payments and maintenance requests, can automate tasks and free up the property manager's time. This allows them to focus on more value-added initiatives. How does the tenant benefits package improve the tenant experience? Tenant benefit packages can significantly improve tenant satisfaction in several ways, by making life easier, more convenient, and potentially more affordable. For instance, if an online portal (a baseline feature for most property management software) is included for rent payments and maintenance issues and requests, this eliminates the hassle of writing checks or waiting on hold to speak with someone about a clogged drain. In other words, tenants have the peace of mind of knowing they can manage their tenancy 24/7 from the comfort of their own devices. Some packages might include features like filter delivery services or regularly scheduled HVAC maintenance. This frees tenants from having to remember these tasks – and ensures their apartment is well-maintained. Certain packages might also offer "verified vendor" services – in other words, a vetted vendor network that can help provide a more secure feeling to residents when service providers are on-site. On the financial side of things, a benefits package might offer discounts with local suppliers for various goods and services, or on a renters insurance policy obtained through the property manager (with applicable waivers for residents who have their own insurance). This can save tenants money on a necessary expense. Some packages also help residents with their credit scores via credit reporting and credit building services, so they can transition from renting to home buying when the time is right. The idea is that the credit reporting program reports on-time rent payments automatically to all credit bureaus, helping residents build their credit simply by paying their rent on time. Some benefit packages include resident rewards programs that represent a powerful and positive incentive for on-time rent payments, including gift cards or cash. As far as living perks go, packages sometimes include added benefits such as access to fitness centers or community events. This provides tenants with additional spaces to relax, socialize, or stay healthy. Packages can include security deposit alternatives that serve to provide a means for residents to be financially liable for damages without having to pay a significant lump sum upfront, such as pure insurance, surety bonds, and ACH authorization programs. Ultimately, tenant benefit packages create a more professional and responsive image for the property management company, which helps tenants feel valued and allows them to experience a smoother, more stress-free rental experience. What are the mistakes to avoid when offering tenant benefits packages? Property management companies should take care to avoid certain pitfalls when implementing tenant benefit packages to ensure they are providing true value to tenants as well as delivering profitability to the PM company itself. For instance, it's important to ensure that the services you're offering are actually relevant to your target renters. For example, young professionals might appreciate discounts on gym memberships, while families might prefer pet-sitting services. You should also take care to clearly communicate what's included and not included in the package to new residents. Don't oversell the benefits – focus on how they genuinely improve the living experience. It's also very important to set realistic expectations for response times on standard maintenance requests, emergency maintenance requests, or virtual concierge services. Likewise, be clear on all available payment methods, as well as rent due dates, late fee structures, and any associated payment processing fees. If your package includes services from third-party vendors, ensure that these vendors are reputable and reliable. Research their customer service record and responsiveness to ensure a smooth partnership and a positive experience for tenants. Above all, regularly monitor the usage of different benefits within your benefits package. This can help you refine your offerings and ensure you're not spending where spending is not required. Looking for a Resident Benefits Package? If you’re looking for a “plug and play” resident benefits package, Second Nature’s RBP is the way to go. Designed to be easy to implement and simple to use, all the services it includes are managed by Second Nature – which means there’s no day-to-day upkeep required from the property manager: Second Nature keeps it running. It’s a simple way to grow your business and create great experiences that residents will pay and stay for. Learn more about our fully-managed Resident Benefits Package.

Calendar icon April 2, 2024

Read more

Receive articles straight to your inbox

Deliver the ultimate resident experience

Our Resident Benefits Package gives residents everything they want without all the work.