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 Oklahoma City area homeowner's can do to maintain 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. Replacing furnace and return air filters is critical to the proper performance of your HVAC system, in addition to your home's air quality. Studies show that indoor air pollution is among 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:

  1. Knowing 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 printed "expiration" date on the box or plastic. It may read "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Pay attention at the store and you should see that some are designed to only last a 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 recommend our customers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! 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 neglect it. 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. Keep in mind that your filter manufacturer sometimes has 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 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 the common 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturers basically suggest to change them every 30-60 days, which is actually a great rule of thumb. However, 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 less populated 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 in no time, just like a vacuum. 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:

  • 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 Air Filters

It's simple; 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. 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 people 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 unit is designed to handle a set amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can shorten 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:

  1. Find 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 there, pull it out and note 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.
Incredible though it may seem, filters can dramatically impact your home's airflow, which is why we recommend referring to the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch smaller particles will reduce airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes increased pressure on your system, so you need to verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may break down much faster than otherwise.

 

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