When Should I Change My Furnace's Air Filter?

February 26, 2015

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the most important thing that Denver area homeowner's can do to secure their air conditioning and heating system between their regular PLUS Maintenance Tune-ups? The answer is simple this; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is extremely important to the effectiveness of your HVAC system, not to mention your home's air quality. Did you know 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 a tough thing to do for most Denver homeowners, but there are often two hurdles to actually completing this job:

  1. Understanding just how often to swap out your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. 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 read "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Look around at the store and you'll notice that some are designed to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The norm seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our readers 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 neglect it. If you want to follow the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest writing the date on the filter when you swap it out, and setting a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also note that your filter manufacturer may have 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 collective air quality of your Denver area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Number of people in the home
  • General air pollution in the Denver area or construction taking place nearby

For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically suggest to change them every 30-60 days, which is really a great rule of thumb. Still, general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you have to endure light to moderate allergies, you might need to upgrade your air filter or change them even more frequently 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, replacing your air filters each year may be quite sufficient. Why do we call out our beloved pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter fast. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by capturing pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause seriously reduced 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
  • Got a cat or dog: Change every 60 days
  • More than one pet 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. Plus, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Denver 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 unit, but some houses have an extra filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on what your unit's manufacturer recommends. Your HVAC is engineered to handle a set amount of pressure in your home sweet 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. Finding out 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 take off the wall.
  3. Look for a filter. If one is inside, 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.
Crazy as it may seem, filters can really affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A more expensive HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier dust will restrict airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes greater pressure on your system, so you should verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may break down much faster than otherwise.

 

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