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 Elkhart area homeowner's can do to secure 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. Buying new furnace and return air filters is extremely important to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, as well as 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 a tough thing to do for most Elkhart homeowners, but there are often two obstacles 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 printed "expiration" date on the packaging. It may instruct "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 designed to only last a single month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have produced media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped 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 suggest our customers to go by. If they're dirty, change them! 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 writing the date on the filter when you swap it out, and setting a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also be aware that your filter manufacturer sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer.

Deciding 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 Elkhart area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home

For your standard 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically say to change them bi-monthly, which is really a great rule of thumb. Still, general rules aren't always for everybody. If you suffer from 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 seldom 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. Of course, 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:

  • Seldom used home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Average 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

Here’s an easy way to stay on top of this; 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. Plus, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Elkhart 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 equipment, 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 unit is made to handle a set amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can decrease the lifespan of your system if it isn't designed for it. Discovering whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple:

  1. Find 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 in place, pull it out and write down 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 alter your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch smaller dust will reduce airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes greater pressure on your system, so you should verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may die off much faster than the standard.

 

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