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

February 26, 2015

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the best thing that Belleville area homeowner's can do to protect their air conditioning and heating system between their scheduled tune-ups? That’s an easy one; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is extremely important to the proper performance of your HVAC system, as well as your home's air quality. Studies show that indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks? It’s not thought of often, but it is extremely important to consider. Changing the air filters is not all that hard for most Belleville homeowners, but there are typically two hurdles to actually completing this job:

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

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a recommended guideline 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 notice that some are engineered 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 standard 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 the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to costly equipment, like your compressor, so it's recommended to change it out more often than to let it go. If you want to listen to the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest scribbling the date on the filter when you swap it out, and adding 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 equipment manufacturer.

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

  • The type of air filter you are using
  • The overall air quality of your Belleville area home
  • Pets – Birds, cats, dogs, hamsters (do you have one?), etc.
  • Number of occupants in the house
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home

For your standard 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically say to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. Still, general rules aren't always for everybody. If you put up with light to moderate allergies, you might need to upgrade your air filter or change them even more often than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a low population area, own a less occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with few automobiles and trucks, replacing your air filters each year may be quite sufficient. Why should you factor in your pets? 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 extremely dirty filters can cause diminished 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
  • Add a dog or cat: 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

D & K Heating Service Experts offers a simple solution; 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. In addition, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Belleville 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 of you know how to replace the air filter in their equipment, but some residences have an additional filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer's recommendation. Your system is designed to handle a certain amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the more 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 easy:

  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. 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 impact your home's airflow, which is why we recommend checking in with the manufacturer. A higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier particles will obstruct airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes greater pressure on your system, so you should verify that your HVAC system was engineered to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may break down much faster than the standard.
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