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 Niagara Falls area homeowner's can do to ensure efficient functionality of 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. Changing furnace and return air filters is crucial to the proper performance of your HVAC system, in addition to your home's air quality. Studies show that 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 all that hard for most Niagara Falls homeowners, but there are often two obstacles to actually completing this job:

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

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a recommended guideline on the box or plastic. It may instruct "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Look around at the store and you'll notice that some are meant 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 friends and family to go by. If it's dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can exacerbate or cause damage to costly equipment, like your compressor, so it's recommended 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. Keep in mind that your filter manufacturer may have a different recommendation from your HVAC unit manufacturer.

Figuring out how often to change your air filters relies upon several factors:

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

For the common 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically tell you to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is actually a great rule of thumb. However, general rules aren't always for everybody. 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 with little auto traffic, replacing your air filters each year may be quite sufficient. Why should you factor in your pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter fast. Naturally, the air filter is just doing its job by capturing pet hair and dander, but extremely dirty filters can cause weak 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
  • More than one pet or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days

How To Remember To Change Air Filters

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 Niagara Falls 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 extra filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer's recommendation. Your HVAC is designed to handle a set amount of pressure in your home sweet home, 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 a piece of cake:

  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. Check 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 greatly alter 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 restrict airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes more pressure on your system, so you should verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may wear out much faster than the standard.

 

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