Most manufacturers generally recommend filters be changed every three months. But in reality, the “right” answer is different for every house. While the recommendation of three months is a good place to start, it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. Many factors come into play when determining how often a filter should be changed, such as:
- Type of filter: Filters can vary in thickness from 1” to 5”+. A good rule of thumb is every inch of thickness is good for one month. For example, 1-inch filters should be changed every month, 2-inch filters every two months, and so forth.
- Home pollutants: If you live with pets, their dander will clog up the filter faster than normal. If there are smokers inside of the house, this will also make it necessary to replace your filters more often. Another consideration is if you keep your windows open. The more you leave your windows open, the larger amount of pollutants that get into your home.
- Dust: If your home gets a lot of dust, you may have to change your filter about twice as often as normal.
And remember – When in doubt, swap it out!
Neglecting to check and replace dirty air filters is one of the most common problems we see in homes across Atlanta. The best advice we offer to homeowners is to check your air filters every month and replace them every three months for optimal HVAC performance and improved indoor air quality. This will help ensure your indoor air stays clean, and keep your home free of allergens and pollutants. While the air filters don’t usually need to be replaced each month, it’s good practice to check them anyway to make sure they’re still okay (because sometimes they do need to be replaced more often than every three months). This will help ensure your HVAC system is working the way it should.
How to Find the Right Filter for Your HVAC System
When choosing an air filter for your HVAC system, you will be presented with many options, but that doesn’t mean the buying process has to be confusing. Assured Comfort has prepared this simple guide to walk you through every step of selecting a filter that’s perfect for you and your home.
What size of air filter you should buy isn’t necessarily your choice; in order to work properly, the filter must be the correct size in accordance with your HVAC system. If you are unsure about the size of your filter, look at the owner’s manual that came with your system. If you don’t have the manual, remove the old filter and take it to your local hardware or HVAC supply store. An associate there should be able to tell you what they carry that is compatible with your system.
When you place your new filter into your system, it should fit snugly. If it’s loose, swap it for one of a different size. If the filter is too small, air will flow around it instead passing through it.
Type of Filter
After determining the size of filter that’s needed, your next step is to choose what kind of filter you want. There are four main types: fiberglass, pleated, electrostatic and washable.
- Fiberglass filters are usually inexpensive and disposable, and are effective at filtering large particles, such as lint and dust. However they’re not as good at capturing smaller particles, like pollen, as other types of filters are.
- Pleated filters are also disposable. They tend to have larger surface areas, which allows for superior particle-capturing abilities.
- Electrostatic filters come in both reusable and disposable options. When air passes through these specially-manufactured filters, they generate strong static charges. As sixth grade science taught us, negatively-charged particles are attracted to positively-charged ones and vice versa, which allows these filters to attract airborne pollutants like a magnet.
- Washable filters are less common and usually more expensive, but only require replacement every couple years. As the name suggests, these filters can be washed by simply running water over them. However, their efficiency actually improves when a sufficient amount of dust is allowed to build up on them.
Just as the actual filter can be made out of different materials, so can its frame. Air filter frames can be constructed out of anything from cardboard to aluminum. The key qualities to consider when determining frames are how long you want your filter to last, and the power of your HVAC system. If you are buying a washable filter that you expect to last for two years, it would be wise to spend a little extra money for a more durable frame. Similarly, if your HVAC system moves air very quickly, a frame made out of cardboard may not be able to withstand the air pressure.
Filters also vary on how well they remove different kinds of particles from your home’s air circulation. While the material the filter is made out of is a big factor, not all filters made of the same material are equally effective. The performance of your filter is primarily related to the needs of your home. The Home Depot has created a filtration rating system based on how effective their filters are at removing specific types of pollutants (large particles, small particles, smoke, etc.) from your home’s air. Their rating system and criteria can be found in the infographic below.
What You Need to Know About Your System’s Filters
Your filter is a key part in the performance and efficiency of your heating system, but it is often forgotten about. In fact, it is estimated that 90 percent of heating equipment problems are caused by dirty filters. Save yourself problems this winter by regularly replacing yours. Everything you need to know about replacing your filter can be found in this article brought to you by the heating experts at Assured Comfort.
Why Should I Change my Air Filter?
A dirty filter can cause many different types of problems for your home and heating system, including:
- Reduced energy efficiency. When a filter becomes clogged with dirt and debris, the amount of air that is able to flow through your ducts is restricted. This makes your system work harder to cool or heat your house, which results in higher utility bills.
- Shortened system lifespan. The extra workload placed on your heating system will shorten its lifespan and may lead to costly repairs.
- Poor indoor air quality. If anyone in your home suffers from allergies or asthma, a dirty filter may circulate polluted air throughout your home, worsening their symptoms.
How to Check Your Air Filters
When checking your air filter, simply remove the filter and hold it up to the light. If little or no light shines through the filter, that means there’s a large build-up of dust or dirt particles. Dirty air filters should be discarded immediately and replaced with a new filter. A clogged filter will prevent clean air from circulating through the house, which results in dirty indoor air.
We encourage homeowners to track how often they’re changing their air filters. If you find yourself having to replace your filters more than every three months, or if you notice an abundance of dirt accumulating on your filters, your home may need an air purification system. Our HVAC technicians can give you a list of air purification system options that are best-suited for your home HVAC system.
How do I Change my Filter?
Follow these five steps to quickly remove your old filter and reap the benefits of your new one:
- Turn off the system.
- Locate the filter. The location can vary for each model. If you are unsure of where the filter is on your system, refer to your owner’s manual or find this information on the manufacturer’s website.
- Remove the old filter. Usually it’ll just slide out. To check if it needs to be replaced, hold it up to the light. If light does not clearly pass through, the filter is dirty and should be changed.
- Install the new filter. It should easily fit back into your system. All filters are designed for air to flow in one direction, so make sure it’s facing the correct way.
- Replace the cover (if necessary) and turn your system back on. That’s it!
The Importance of Filter Maintenance
You may not feel comfortable with the idea of DIY (do it yourself) HVAC maintenance. However, there are certain steps you need to take to ensure your home’s indoor air is clean. This includes maintaining your HVAC system’s air filter.
To do this, you first need to locate your filter. The filter is most likely located near a central air return vent or at an air handler next to your attic or basement. Once you’ve figured out where your filter is located, try to check its condition every month or so.
Always keep an eye out for a clogged air filter. When your HVAC system’s filter becomes very dirty or clogged, it must be either washed or replaced. Otherwise, your HVAC system will become less efficient, thereby wasting energy and resulting in higher energy costs.
If you fail to clean your air filter, you can actually exhaust it to the point that it stops functioning all together. That’s why it’s of utmost importance to clean it regularly.
A poorly-maintained HVAC system filter can also cause bacteria and mold to grow, contaminating your home’s air and putting your family’s health at risk of infection.
Maintaining your HVAC system’s filter should be relatively simple. However, if you’re unsure about where to begin, don’t hesitate to give the experts of Assured Comfort a call at (404) 602-0505 or (770) 872-4628. You can also reach out to us by leaving a comment on our Google+ posts:
Assured Comfort is metro Atlanta’s leader in air quality services. Our friendly technicians are fast, courteous, and reliable. We fully stand behind our work, and that is why the BBB has given us an A+ business rating. Continue to visit our website for more heating, air conditioning and air quality guidelines and tips.