When Should I Change My Furnace's Air Filter?

February 26, 2015

Sometimes we’re asked what is the best thing that West Palm Beach area homeowner's can do to maintain 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. Replacing furnace and return air filters is crucial to the effectiveness of your HVAC system, plus your home's air quality. Research suggests that indoor air pollution is in 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 West Palm Beach homeowners, but there are usually two obstacles to actually completing this job:

  1. Knowing 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 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 should see that some are meant to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have produced media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed once every 6-12 months. The industry 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 it's dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to pricey equipment, like your compressor, so it's recommended to change it out more often than not. If you want to stick to the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest marking the date on the filter when you swap it out, and setting a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also be aware that your filter manufacturer may have a different recommendation from your HVAC unit manufacturer.

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

  • Which air filter your system requires
  • The entire air quality of your West Palm Beach area home
  • Pets – Birds, cats, dogs, hamsters (do you have one?), etc.
  • Number of occupants in the house
  • How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home

For the common 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically tell you to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. However, generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. If you have to tolerate 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 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 do pets matter so much? 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 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
  • Multiple pets 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. This is a great to receive discounts on service, tips and other helpful information directly to your email. Plus, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your West Palm Beach 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 people know how to replace the air filter in their unit, but some houses have an extra filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer's recommendation. Your unit is designed to handle a certain amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the more the blower motor works, which can shorten the life expectancy of your system if it isn't designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple:

  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. Inspect for a filter. If one is inside, pull it out and note 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 alter your home's airflow, which is why we recommend checking in with 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 need to verify that your HVAC system was engineered to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may break down much faster than the standard.

 

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