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 Kitchener area homeowner's can do to protect their air conditioning and heating system between their regular PLUS Maintenance Tune-ups? That’s an easy one; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Buying new furnace and return air filters is crucial to the effectiveness of your HVAC system, not to mention your home's air quality. Studies show that indoor air pollution is one of 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 difficult for most Kitchener homeowners, but there are often two challenges to actually completing this job:

  1. Knowing 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 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 one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed 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 it's dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to expensive equipment, like your compressor, so it's better to change it out more often than not. If you want to follow the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest scribbling 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 might have a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer.

Choosing 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 Kitchener area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • General air pollution in the Kitchener area or construction taking place nearby

For the common 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically say to change them bi-monthly, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. But generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. If you have to endure 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 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 pets matter so much? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter in no time, just like a vacuum. Obviously, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but exceptionally dirty filters can cause seriously reduced HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Vacation 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

Here’s an easy way to stay on top of this; 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 Kitchener 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 unit, 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 HVAC is designed to handle a maximum 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:

  1. Find your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to take off the wall.
  3. Check 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.
Amazing as it may seem, filters can greatly affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend referring to the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer dust will restrict airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes more pressure on your system, so you need to verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may wear out much faster than normal.

 

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