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

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the number one thing that Columbus area homeowner’s can do to maintain their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? Our advice is simple; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is critical to the proper performance of your HVAC system, in addition to your home’s air quality. Did you know indoor air pollution is one of 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 Columbus homeowners, but there are typically two obstacles to actually accomplishing this task: 

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

When To Change Your Air Filters 

Most filters have a printed “expiration” date on the packaging. It may say “Lasts up to 3 months” or “Change filter every 90 days”. Check out the filters at the store and you should see that some are meant to only last a single month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be exchanged 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 recommended to change it out more often than neglect it. If you want to stick to 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 sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer. 
 
Determining how often to change your air filters relies upon several factors: 

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

For your typical 1″-3″ air filters, the manufacturer specs basically tell you to change them every 30-60 days, which is actually a great rule of thumb. But general rules aren’t always for everybody. 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 less populated area, own a infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with few automobiles and trucks, annual replacement of your air filter may be quite sufficient. Why do pets matter so much? 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 capturing pet hair and dander, but exceptionally 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 
  • Common 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 Columbus area home’s air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or the date of your choosing. 

How to replace your return air filter 

Most of us know how to replace the air filter in their system, but some residences have another filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your unit is engineered 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 expectancy of your system if it isn’t designed for it. Discovering whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy: 

  • Find your return air vents. 
  • Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to pull off the wall. 
  • Look for a filter. If one is there, pull it out and record 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. 

Amazing as it may seem, filters can really affect your home’s airflow, which is why we recommend referring to the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier debris will obstruct airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes increased pressure on your system, so you ought to verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may break down much faster than normal. 

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