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

Occassionally we’re asked what is the most important thing that Philadelphia area homeowner’s can do to maintain their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? Our advice is simple; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Buying new furnace and return air filters is crucial to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, not to mention your home’s air quality. Did you know 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 difficult for most Philadelphia homeowners, but there are often two challenges to actually completing this job: 

  1. Understanding just how often to replace your furnace or air conditioner filter. 
  1. Replacing them at the proper time. 

When To Change Your Air Filters 

Most filters have a printed “expiration” date on the box or plastic. It may read “Lasts up to 3 months” or “Change filter every 90 days”. Check out the filters at the store and you’ll see that some are engineered to only last a single month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have produced media air cleaners with filters meant to be exchanged once every 6-12 months. The industry standard seems to be once every few months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our customers to go by. If they’re dirty, change them! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to pricey parts, like your compressor, so it’s best to change it out more often than not. If you want to stick to the manufacturer’s recommended limit, we suggest marking the date on the filter when you swap it out, and programming a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Keep in mind that your filter manufacturer might have a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer. 
 
Determining how often to change your air filters can depend on several factors: 

  • The type of air filter you are using 
  • The collective air quality of your Philadelphia area home 
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, 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 tell you to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. However, generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. If you have to tolerate 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 less populated area, own a infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, annual replacement of your air filter 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. Naturally, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping pet hair and dander, but extremely dirty filters can cause seriously reduced HVAC performance. 

In summary: 

  • Vacation home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months 
  • Common suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days 
  • House with a pet: Change every 60 days 
  • Several 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. This is a great to receive discounts on service, tips and other helpful information directly to your email. Also, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Philadelphia 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 of us know how to replace the air filter in their equipment, but some residences have an extra filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer’s recommendation. Your unit is engineered to handle a maximum amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can reduce the life expectancy of your system if it isn’t designed for it. Discovering whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy: 

  • Go to your return air vents. 
  • Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from the wall. 
  • Check for a filter. If one is in place, pull it out and write down the size. 
  • Verify the filter type is the one recommended by the manufacturer. 
  • If the filter is dirty, replace with the manufacturer’s recommended filter of the same size and type. 

Incredible though it may seem, filters can really affect your home’s airflow, which is why we recommend referring to the manufacturer. A higher quality 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 need to verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may wear out much faster than otherwise. 

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