When Should I Change My Air Conditioner's Air Filter at Home?

February 26, 2015

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the most important thing that Hurricane area homeowner's can do to ensure efficient functionality of their air conditioning and heating system between their seasonal tune-ups? The answer is simple this; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is critical to the proper performance of your HVAC system, plus your home's air quality. Research suggests that indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks? It’s not thought of often, but it is extremely important to consider. Changing the air filters is not a tough thing to do for most Hurricane homeowners, but there are usually two hurdles to actually completing this job:

  1. Knowing just how often to replace your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. Changing them when you’re suppose to.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a timeline printed on the wrapping. It may read "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Check out the filters at the store and you should see that some are designed to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be exchanged once every 6-12 months. The standard seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our customers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can exacerbate or cause damage to costly components, like your compressor, so it's recommended to change it out more often than neglect it. If you want to follow the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest scribbling the date on the filter when you swap it out, and setting a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also note that your filter manufacturer sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer.

Deciding how often to change your air filters can depend on several factors:

  • The type of air filter you are using
  • The overall air quality of your Hurricane area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home

For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturers basically say to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. However, general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you have to endure light to moderate allergies, you may need to upgrade the air filter or change them even more often than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a remote area, own a infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, changing your air filter every 12-months may be quite sufficient. Why do we call out our beloved pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter in no time, just like a vacuum. Of course, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but exceptionally dirty filters can cause weak HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Vacation home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Average suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
  • Got a cat or dog: Change every 60 days
  • Multiple pets or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days

How To Remember To Change Your Air Conditioner's Air Filters

It's simple; sign up for the Service Experts Email Club. When you do, you can elect to receive (or not) great email coupons and newsletters with a lot of tips and discounts on AC repairs and tune-ups. Plus, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Hurricane area home's air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or a specific date of your choice.

How to replace your return air filter

Most people know how to replace the air filter in their system, but some houses have another filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your unit is engineered to handle a maximum amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can shorten the lifespan of your system if it isn't designed for it. Discovering whether you have a return filter and replacing it is a piece of cake:

  1. Go to your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to pull off the wall.
  3. Inspect for a filter. If one is there, pull it out and record the size.
  4. Verify the filter type is the one recommended by the manufacturer.
  5. If filter is dirty, replace with the manufacturer's recommended filter of the same size and type.
Crazy as it may seem, filters can really affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend checking in with the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer particles will obstruct airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes more pressure on your system, so you ought to verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may wear out much faster than otherwise.
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