When Should I Change My Furnace's Air Filter?

February 26, 2015

Occassionally we’re asked what is the best thing that Concord area homeowner's can do to ensure efficient functionality of their air conditioning and heating system between their regular PLUS Maintenance Tune-ups? The answer is simple this; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is critical to the ideal operation 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? It’s not thought of often, but it is extremely important to consider. Changing the air filters is not difficult for most Concord homeowners, but there are typically two obstacles to actually getting it done:

  1. Knowing just how often to change your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. Remembering to change air filters when needed.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a printed "expiration" date on the packaging. It may read "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Look around at the store and you should see that some are engineered to only last a single month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The norm seems to be once every few months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we tell our customers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can exacerbate or cause damage to costly equipment, like your compressor, so it's best to change it out more often than neglect it. If you want to listen to the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest marking 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 might have a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer.

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

  • Type of filter your A/C system requires
  • The collective air quality of your Concord area home
  • Pets – Birds, cats, dogs, hamsters (do you have one?), etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home

For the common 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically say to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is actually a great rule of thumb. But general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you put up with light to moderate allergies, you might need to upgrade your air filter or change them even more frequently 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 where there are fewer cars around, 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 quick. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by capturing pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause seriously reduced 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
  • House with a pet: 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 Concord 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 of us know how to replace the air filter in their equipment, but some houses have an extra filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer's recommendation. Your HVAC is made to handle a certain amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can decrease 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 pull off the wall.
  3. Look 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.
Crazy as it may seem, filters can really impact your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer particles will reduce airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes increased pressure on your system, so you should 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 wear out much faster than normal.

 

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