When Should I Change My Furnace's Air Filter?

February 26, 2015

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the number one thing that Hurricane area homeowner's can do to protect their air conditioning and heating system between their seasonal PLUS Maintenance Tune-ups? The answer is simple this; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Changing furnace and return air filters is critical to the effectiveness of your HVAC system, in addition to your home's air quality. Research suggests that indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks? We know it's the last thing on your mind, but this is really important stuff. 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 printed "expiration" date 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 three months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our readers to go by. If they're dirty, change them! 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 adding a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Keep in mind that your filter manufacturer may have a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer.

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

  • Which air filter your system requires
  • The overall air quality of your Hurricane area home
  • Pets – Cats, dogs, birds, etc.
  • Number of people in the home
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the 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. But general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you have to tolerate light to moderate allergies, you might require an upgraded air filter or change them even more regularly 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:

  • Infrequently occupied 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 Air Filters

Teays Valley Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning offers a simple solution; sign up for the Service Experts Email Club. This is a great to receive discounts on service, tips and other helpful information directly to your email. 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 the date of your choosing.

How to replace your return air filter

Most people know how to replace the air filter in their unit, 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 system is engineered to handle a certain amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can reduce 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 remove from the wall.
  3. Inspect for a filter. If one is inside, 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 dramatically impact your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer dust will restrict 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 built to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may die off much faster than normal.

 

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