Occassionally we’re asked what is the best thing that Fort Myers area homeowner's can do to ensure efficient functionality of their air conditioning and heating system between their scheduled tune-ups? Our advice is simple; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is critical to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, not to mention 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 difficult for most Fort Myers homeowners, but there are typically two obstacles to actually accomplishing this task:
- Understanding just how often to change your furnace or air conditioner filter.
- Replacing them at the proper time.
When To Change Your Air Filters
Most filters have a printed "expiration" date on the wrapping. It may read "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Check out the filters at the store and you'll notice that some are meant to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be exchanged 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 tell our readers to go by. If it's 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 to let it go. If you want to stick to 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. Also note that your filter manufacturer sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer.
Determining how often to change your air filters can depend on several factors:
- Which air filter your system requires
- The collective air quality of your Fort Myers area home
- Pets – Birds, cats, dogs, hamsters (do you have one?), 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 manufacturers basically suggest to change them every 30-60 days, which is actually a great rule of thumb. However, general rules aren't always for everybody. 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 less populated area, own a infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area where there are fewer cars around, 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 capturing pet hair and dander, but exceptionally dirty filters can cause diminished HVAC performance.
- Seldom used home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
- Average suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
- Got a cat or dog: Change every 60 days
- Multiple pets or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days
How To Remember To Change Your Air Conditioner's 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 Fort Myers 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 system, but some homes have another filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer's recommendation. Your HVAC is made to handle a maximum amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can shorten the life expectancy of your system if it isn't designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is a piece of cake:
- Find your return air vents.
- Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from the wall.
- Inspect for a filter. If one is there, pull it out and note the size.
- Verify the filter type is the one recommended by the manufacturer.
- If filter is dirty, replace with the manufacturer's recommended filter of the same size and type.
Incredible though 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 tinier particles will obstruct airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes more pressure on your system, so you should 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.