When Should I Change My Furnace's Air Filter?

February 26, 2015

Sometimes we’re asked what is the number one thing that Salt Lake City area homeowner's can do to ensure efficient functionality of 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. Buying new furnace and return air filters is extremely important to the effectiveness of your HVAC system, in addition to your home's air quality. Did you know 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 all that hard for most Salt Lake City homeowners, but there are often two challenges to actually accomplishing this task:

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

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a printed "expiration" date on the box or plastic. It may instruct "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Look around at the store and you should see that some are designed to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed 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 they're dirty, change them! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to costly components, like your compressor, so it's best to change it out more often than not. If you want to follow 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. Keep in mind that your filter manufacturer may have a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer.

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

  • Type of filter your A/C system requires
  • The overall air quality of your Salt Lake City area home
  • Pets – Birds, cats, dogs, hamsters (do you have one?), etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • General air pollution in the Salt Lake City area or construction taking place nearby

For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturers basically suggest to change them every 30-60 days, which is actually a great rule of thumb. But 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 remote area, own a infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, 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. Naturally, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause weak HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Seldom used home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Typical suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
  • House with a pet: Change every 60 days
  • Several pets or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days

How To Remember To Change 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 Salt Lake City 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 unit, but some residences have an extra filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your system is designed to handle a set amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can shorten the lifespan of your system if it isn't designed for it. Discovering 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 remove from the wall.
  3. Inspect for a filter. If one is in place, pull it out and record 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 greatly affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A top tier 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 ought to verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may die off much faster than normal.

 

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