When Should I Change My Air Conditioner’s Air Filter at Home?

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the best thing that the U.S. area homeowner’s can do to secure their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? Our advice is simple; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Changing furnace and return air filters is crucial to the proper performance of your HVAC system, in addition to your home’s air quality. Research suggests that indoor air pollution is in 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 the U.S. homeowners, but there are usually two obstacles to actually getting it done: 

  1. Determining just how often to replace your furnace or air conditioner filter. 
  1. Changing them when you’re suppose to. 

When To Change Your Air Filters 

Most filters have a timeline printed on the wrapping. It may say “Lasts up to 3 months” or “Change filter every 90 days”. Look around at the store and you’ll see 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 norm seems to be once every few months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we tell our friends, and family to go by. If it’s dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to costly parts, like your compressor, so it’s better to change it out more often than to let it go. If you want to listen to the manufacturer’s recommended limit, we suggest marking the date on the filter when you swap it out, and adding a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also note that your filter manufacturer might have a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer. 
 
Figuring out how often to change your air filters relies upon several factors: 

  • Which air filter your system requires 
  • The overall air quality of your the U.S. area home 
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc. 
  • Number of occupants in the house 
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home 

For your typical 1″-3″ air filters, the manufacturer specs basically tell you to change them every 30-60 days, which is actually a great rule of thumb. Still, general rules aren’t always for everybody. If you put up with light to moderate allergies, you might require an upgraded air filter or change them even more regularly than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you’re in a remote area, own a seldom occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with few automobiles and trucks, 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. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause weak HVAC performance. 

In summary: 

  • Infrequently occupied home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months 
  • Average suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days 
  • House with a pet: Change every 60 days 
  • More than one pet or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days 

How To Remember To Change Your Air Conditioner’s Air Filters 

It’s simple; 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. In addition, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your the U.S. area home’s air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or any date you find most convenient. 

How to replace your return air filter 

Most of you know how to replace the air filter in their system, but some houses have an extra filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your system is made to handle a maximum amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can reduce the life expectancy of your system if it isn’t designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is a piece of cake: 

  • Go to your return air vents. 
  • Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to take off the wall. 
  • Inspect for a filter. If one is inside, pull it out and note the size. 
  • Verify the filter type is the one recommended by the manufacturer. 
  • If the filter is dirty, replace with the manufacturer’s recommended filter of the same size and type. 

Incredible though it may seem, filters can dramatically impact 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 obstruct 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 made to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may break down much faster than the standard. 

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