When Should I Change My Furnace's Air Filter?

February 26, 2015

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the best thing that Buffalo area homeowner's can do to ensure efficient functionality of their air conditioning and heating system between their scheduled PLUS Maintenance Tune-ups? The answer is simple this; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Changing furnace and return air filters is critical to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, plus your home's air quality. Studies show that indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks? You probably don’t consider it as you sit and watch TV, but this is the air you breathe day and night. Changing the air filters is not a tough thing to do for most Buffalo homeowners, but there are often two challenges to actually accomplishing this task:

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

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a recommended guideline on the wrapping. It may read "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Pay attention at the store and you'll see that some are meant to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The industry standard seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our friends and family to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to costly components, 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 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 sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC equipment manufacturer.

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

  • Which air filter your system requires
  • The entire air quality of your Buffalo area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • General air pollution in the Buffalo area or construction taking place nearby

For your standard 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically tell you to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is really a great rule of thumb. But generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. If you put up with light to moderate allergies, you may need to upgrade the air filter or change them even more often than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a less populated area, own a less occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, changing your air filter every 12-months 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. Naturally, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause seriously reduced 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
  • 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

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 Buffalo 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 houses have an additional 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 maximum amount of pressure in your home sweet home, and the more filters you have the more the blower motor works, which can decrease the lifespan of your system if it isn't designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy:

  1. Go to 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.
Incredible though it may seem, filters can greatly affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A more expensive HEPA filter that is designed to catch smaller dust will reduce airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes greater pressure on your system, so you ought to verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may break down much faster than normal.

 

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