When Should I Change My Furnace's Air Filter?

February 26, 2015

Occassionally we’re asked what is the most important thing that Indianapolis area homeowner's can do to protect their air conditioning and heating system between their seasonal 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 extremely important to the proper performance of your HVAC system, as well as your home's air quality. Research suggests that indoor air pollution is in 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 all that hard for most Indianapolis homeowners, but there are often two hurdles 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 recommended guideline on the packaging. It may instruct "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Check out the filters at the store and you'll notice that some are meant to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed once every 6-12 months. The industry standard seems to be once every 3 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 pricey components, like your compressor, so it's recommended to change it out more often than neglect it. If you want to stick to 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. Keep in mind that your filter manufacturer may have a different recommendation from your HVAC unit manufacturer.

Determining how often to change your air filters hinges on several factors:

  • Which air filter your system requires
  • The collective air quality of your Indianapolis area home
  • Pets – Cats, dogs, birds, etc.
  • Number of people in the home
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home

For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturers basically suggest to change them every 30-60 days, which is actually a great rule of thumb. But generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. If you suffer from 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 remote area, own a infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area where there are fewer cars around, 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 quick. Of course, the air filter is just doing its job by capturing pet hair and dander, but extremely 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
  • Add a dog or cat: Change every 60 days
  • Multiple 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 convenient way to get money-saving discounts and other helpful information on your smartphone, tablet or desktop. In addition, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Indianapolis 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 us know how to replace the air filter in their equipment, but some residences have an additional filter in the return ducts. 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, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can decrease the life expectancy of your system if it isn't designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple:

  1. Go to 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 there, 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 alter your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer particles will obstruct 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 made to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may wear out much faster than otherwise.

 

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