When Should I Change My Furnace's Air Filter?

February 26, 2015

Occassionally we’re asked what is the number one thing that Charleston 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 extremely important to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, plus 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 difficult for most Charleston homeowners, but there are usually two obstacles to actually accomplishing this task:

  1. Determining just how often to change your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. 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 say "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Pay attention at the store and you'll notice that some are meant 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 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we tell 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 sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer.

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

  • The type of air filter you are using
  • The collective air quality of your Charleston area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Number of people in the home
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home

For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturers basically tell you to change them bi-monthly, which is really a great rule of thumb. However, general rules aren't always for everybody. If you suffer from 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 seldom occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area where there are fewer cars around, 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 fast. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause diminished 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 Air Filters

Pardee Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning offers a simple solution; sign up for the Service Experts Email Club. This is a convenient way to get money-saving discounts and other helpful information on your smartphone, tablet or desktop. Plus, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Charleston 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 system, but some houses have another filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on what your unit's manufacturer recommends. Your unit is engineered to handle a maximum amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can decrease the life of your system if it isn't designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple:

  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. Look for a filter. If one is there, 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 higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier dust will reduce 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 engineered to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may die off much faster than otherwise.

 

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