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 Dayton area homeowner's can do to ensure efficient functionality of their air conditioning and heating system between their scheduled PLUS Maintenance Tune-ups? It's a simple question with a simple answer; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Changing furnace and return air filters is critical to the effectiveness of your HVAC system, in addition to 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 a tough thing to do for most Dayton homeowners, but there are often two hurdles to actually completing this job:

  1. Knowing 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 timeline printed 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 designed to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have produced media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed 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 recommend our readers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to pricey equipment, like your compressor, so it's better 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. Keep in mind that your filter manufacturer might have a different recommendation from your HVAC equipment manufacturer.

Deciding how often to change your air filters hinges on several factors:

  • Which air filter your system requires
  • The collective air quality of your Dayton area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Number of occupants in the house
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home

For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically suggest to change them bi-monthly, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. Still, general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you have to endure 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 remote area, own a seldom occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area where there are fewer cars around, changing your air filter every 12-months may be quite sufficient. Why do pets matter so much? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter fast. Naturally, 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:

  • Vacation 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
  • More than one pet or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days

How To Remember To Change Air Filters

Stevenson Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning offers a simple solution; sign up for the Service Experts Email Club. When you do, you can elect to receive (or not) great email coupons and newsletters with a lot of tips and discounts on AC repairs and tune-ups. Also, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Dayton 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 of us know how to replace the air filter in their system, but some homes have an additional filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on what your unit's manufacturer recommends. Your system is designed to handle a set amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can reduce 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:

  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 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.
Crazy as it may seem, filters can dramatically impact your home's airflow, which is why we recommend referring to the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier particles will reduce airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes more pressure on your system, so you ought to verify that your HVAC system was engineered to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may wear out much faster than otherwise.

 

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