When Should I Change My Furnace's Air Filter?

February 26, 2015

Occassionally we’re asked what is the best thing that Fort Myers area homeowner's can do to protect their air conditioning and heating system between their scheduled 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 critical to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, not to mention your home's air quality. Studies show that indoor air pollution is one of 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 getting it done:

  1. Knowing just how often to change your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. Replacing them at the proper time.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a timeline printed on the packaging. It may say "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Check out the filters at the store and you should see that some are designed to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed 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 suggest our customers 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 better to change it out more often than to let it go. If you want to follow the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest writing 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.

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

  • The type of air filter you are using
  • The collective air quality of your Fort Myers area home
  • Pets – Birds, cats, dogs, hamsters (do you have one?), etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home

For your standard 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturers basically suggest to change them every 30-60 days, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. But general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you have to tolerate 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, annual replacement of your air filter 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 capturing pet hair and dander, but exceptionally dirty filters can cause weak HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Seldom used home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Average suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
  • Add a dog or cat: Change every 60 days
  • More than one pet 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. 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. 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 a specific date of your choice.

How to replace your return air filter

Most of us know how to replace the air filter in their unit, but some homes have another filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on what your unit's manufacturer recommends. Your HVAC is designed to handle a certain amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can shorten the life 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:

  1. Locate 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 write down 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.
Amazing as it may seem, filters can really 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 finer dust 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.

 

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