When Should I Change My Furnace's Air Filter?

February 26, 2015

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the number one thing that Austin 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 extremely important to the effectiveness of your HVAC system, not to mention your home's air quality. Research suggests that indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks? You probably don’t consider it as you sit and watch TV, but this is the air you breathe day and night. Changing the air filters is not difficult for most Austin homeowners, but there are typically two obstacles to actually accomplishing this task:

  1. Determining just how often to replace your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. Remembering to change air filters when needed.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a timeline printed on the box or plastic. It may say "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Check out the filters at the store and you'll see that some are designed to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The norm seems to be once every three months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we suggest our readers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to costly components, like your compressor, so it's recommended to change it out more often than neglect it. If you want to follow the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest marking 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 might have a different recommendation from your HVAC unit manufacturer.

Determining how often to change your air filters hinges on several factors:

  • Which air filter your system requires
  • The entire air quality of your Austin area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home

For your standard 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturers basically tell you to change them bi-monthly, which is really a great rule of thumb. Still, general rules aren't always for everybody. If you suffer from light to moderate allergies, you might need to upgrade your air filter or change them even more frequently than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a remote area, own a less 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 pets matter so much? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter fast. Of course, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but exceptionally dirty filters can cause diminished HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Vacation 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
  • More than one pet or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days

How To Remember To Change Air Filters

Strand Brothers Service Experts offers a simple solution; 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. In addition, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Austin 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 which HVAC system you have. Your system is made to handle a set 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. Discovering 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 remove from the wall.
  3. Look 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 asking the manufacturer. A more expensive HEPA filter that is designed to catch smaller particles will restrict airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes increased pressure on your system, so you should verify that your HVAC system was engineered to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may wear out much faster than otherwise.

 

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