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 Girard area homeowner's can do to maintain their air conditioning and heating system between their seasonal tune-ups? The answer is simple this; 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. Research suggests that indoor air pollution is in 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 a tough thing to do for most Girard homeowners, but there are typically two hurdles to actually accomplishing this task:

  1. Understanding just how often to change 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 packaging. It may read "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Look around at the store and you should see that some are engineered to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The standard seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our friends and family to go by. If they're dirty, change them! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to expensive components, 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 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 sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC equipment manufacturer.

Figuring out how often to change your air filters relies upon several factors:

  • The type of air filter you are using
  • The collective air quality of your Girard area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Number of occupants in the house
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home

For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically suggest to change them bi-monthly, which is really a great rule of thumb. However, generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. If you suffer from light to moderate allergies, you may need to upgrade the air filter or change them even more often than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a less populated area, own a infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, 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 quick. Naturally, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping pet hair and dander, but tremendously 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
  • 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

It's simple; 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. Plus, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Girard 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 of us know how to replace the air filter in their unit, but some homes have an extra filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer's recommendation. Your unit is made to handle a certain amount of pressure in your home sweet home, and the more filters you have the more the blower motor works, which can shorten the life of your system if it isn't designed for it. Learning 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 pull off the wall.
  3. Inspect for a filter. If one is in place, 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.
Crazy as it may seem, filters can dramatically impact your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier particles will reduce airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes more pressure on your system, so you ought to verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may wear out much faster than otherwise.
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