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 Mobile area homeowner's can do to protect their air conditioning and heating system between their seasonal PLUS Maintenance Tune-ups? It's a simple question with a simple answer; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is crucial to the effectiveness of your HVAC system, plus your home's air quality. Studies show that indoor air pollution is in 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 Mobile homeowners, but there are typically two challenges to actually accomplishing this task:

  1. Knowing just how often to swap out your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. Replacing them at the proper time.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a recommended guideline on the box or plastic. It may say "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Check out the filters at the store and you'll notice that some are designed to only last a single month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have produced media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed 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 tell our customers to go by. If it's dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to pricey parts, like your compressor, so it's better to change it out more often than to let it go. 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. Also note that your filter manufacturer may have a different recommendation from your HVAC equipment manufacturer.

Determining how often to change your air filters relies upon several factors:

  • The type of air filter you are using
  • The collective air quality of your Mobile area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Number of occupants in the house
  • How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home

For your standard 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically say to change them bi-monthly, which is really a great rule of thumb. But generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. If you suffer from light to moderate allergies, you might need to upgrade your air filter or change them even more often than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a low population area, own a less occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, replacing your air filters each year may be quite sufficient. Why do pets matter so much? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter quick. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause weak HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Vacation home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Typical 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

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 Mobile area home's air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or any date you find most convenient.

How to replace your return air filter

Most people know how to replace the air filter in their unit, but some homes have an additional filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer's recommendation. Your HVAC is engineered to handle a set 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. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple:

  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 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.
Amazing as it may seem, filters can dramatically alter 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 reduce 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 uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may wear out much faster than the standard.

 

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