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

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the most important thing that the U.S. area homeowner’s can do to maintain their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? It’s a simple question with a simple answer; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Buying new furnace and return air filters is extremely important to the effectiveness 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? 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 the U.S. homeowners, but there are often two challenges to actually completing this job: 

  1. Understanding just how often to change your furnace or air conditioner filter. 
  1. Changing them when you’re suppose to. 

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”. Pay attention at the store and you’ll notice that some are designed to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The 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 it’s dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to expensive equipment, like your compressor, so it’s recommended to change it out more often than neglect it. If you want to follow the manufacturer’s recommended limit, we suggest scribbling the date on the filter when you swap it out, and programming a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also be aware that your filter manufacturer might have a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer. 
 
Determining how often to change your air filters hinges on several factors: 

  • Type of filter your A/C system requires 
  • The collective air quality of your the U.S. area home 
  • Pets – Birds, cats, dogs, hamsters (do you have one?), etc. 
  • Number of occupants in the house 
  • General air pollution in the the U.S. area or construction taking place nearby 

For your typical 1″-3″ air filters, the OEM specs basically tell you to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is actually a great rule of thumb. But generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. If you have to tolerate light to moderate allergies, you might need to upgrade your air filter or change them even more regularly than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you’re in a low population area, own a infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with few automobiles and trucks, replacing your air filters each year may be quite sufficient. Why do we call out our beloved pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter fast. Clearly, 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 
  • Several pets or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days 

How To Remember To Change Your Air Conditioner’s Air Filters 

Here’s an easy way to stay on top of this; 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. But wait… there’s more, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your the U.S. 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 residences 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 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 lifespan of your system if it isn’t designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple: 

  • Locate your return air vents. 
  • Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from the wall. 
  • Inspect 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. 

Crazy as it may seem, filters can dramatically impact your home’s airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier particles will obstruct airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes increased pressure on your system, so you need to verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may break down much faster than the standard. 

  • How to Choose a Good HVAC System

    When it comes to keeping your home comfortable during every season, nothing is more critical than picking out the right heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. This choice influences your daily comfort, monthly utility bills and all-around home efficiency. But, with so many system... Continue reading

  • Year-End HVAC Maintenance List

    Once the air starts to get cold, you know it’s time to prepare your home for the cooler months ahead. Your heating system is critical to maintaining a cozy, warm environment. A well-maintained furnace delivers the comfort you crave while using a smaller amount of energy. Routine inspections also... Continue reading

  • 2024 Furnace and Air Conditioning Trends

    In the ever-evolving world of home HVAC, keeping up with the newest HVAC trends is imperative for homeowners looking to enhance their home’s comfort and efficiency. Going into 2024, the HVAC industry continues to innovate, bringing brand-new technologies and trends aimed at changing how... Continue reading