When Should I Change My Furnace's Air Filter?

February 26, 2015

Sometimes we’re asked what is the most important thing that Albany area homeowner's can do to protect their air conditioning and heating system between their seasonal PLUS Maintenance Tune-ups? That’s an easy one; 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, as well as your home's air quality. Research suggests that indoor air pollution is among 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 Albany homeowners, but there are often two hurdles to actually getting it done:

  1. Determining just how often to change 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 wrapping. It may instruct "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 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 norm seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we suggest our readers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to expensive parts, like your compressor, so it's better to change it out more often than not. 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. Also note that your filter manufacturer might 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 overall air quality of your Albany area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Number of occupants in the house
  • General air pollution in the Albany area or construction taking place nearby

For the common 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically suggest to change them every 30-60 days, which is actually a great rule of thumb. However, general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you put up with light to moderate allergies, you might require an upgraded air filter or change them even more frequently than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a remote area, own a less occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with few automobiles and trucks, 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 quick. Obviously, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but extremely dirty filters can cause weak HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Seldom used home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Typical suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
  • Add a dog or cat: 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. This is a convenient way to get money-saving discounts and other helpful information on your smartphone, tablet or desktop. In addition, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Albany 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 homes have an extra filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on what your unit's manufacturer recommends. Your HVAC is made to handle a set amount of pressure in your home sweet home, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can shorten the life of your system if it isn't designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy:

  1. Find your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to take off the wall.
  3. Check 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.
Incredible though it may seem, filters can dramatically impact 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 debris 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 could experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may wear out much faster than otherwise.

 

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