Every once in a while we’re asked what is the number one thing that Oklahoma City area homeowner's can do to maintain 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. Replacing furnace and return air filters is critical to the proper performance of your HVAC system, plus 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 Oklahoma City homeowners, but there are often two challenges to actually getting it done:
- Knowing just how often to replace your furnace or air conditioner filter.
- Changing them when you’re suppose to.
When To Change Your Air Filters
Most filters have a printed "expiration" date on the box or plastic. It may say "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Pay attention at the store and you should see that some are meant to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released 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 recommend our customers to go by. If they're dirty, change them! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to costly parts, like your compressor, so it's best to change it out more often than not. If you want to stick 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 sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC unit manufacturer.
Figuring out how often to change your air filters can depend on several factors:
- The type of air filter you are using
- The entire air quality of your Oklahoma City area home
- Pets – Birds, cats, dogs, hamsters (do you have one?), etc.
- Number of people in the home
- General air pollution in the Oklahoma City area or construction taking place nearby
For your standard 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturers basically suggest to change them bi-monthly, which is actually a great rule of thumb. But general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you put up with 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 less occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with few automobiles and trucks, annual replacement of your air filter may be quite sufficient. Why should you factor in your pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter in no time, just like a vacuum. Of course, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but extremely dirty filters can cause diminished HVAC performance.
- Seldom used home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
- Common 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 Your Air Conditioner's Air Filters
Gordon's 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. Also, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Oklahoma City 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 us know how to replace the air filter in their equipment, but some houses 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 harder the blower motor works, which can reduce the lifespan 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:
- Locate your return air vents.
- Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from the wall.
- Inspect for a filter. If one is there, pull it out and write down the size.
- Verify the filter type is the one recommended by the manufacturer.
- If filter is dirty, replace with the manufacturer's recommended filter of the same size and type.
Incredible though it may seem, filters can really affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend referring to the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch smaller dust will reduce 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 built to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may break down much faster than normal.