When Should I Change My Air Conditioner's Air Filter at Home?

February 26, 2015

Occassionally we’re asked what is the most important thing that Fort Wayne area homeowner's can do to protect their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? That’s an easy one; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is crucial to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, in addition to your home's air quality. Studies show that 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 difficult for most Fort Wayne homeowners, but there are typically two hurdles to actually accomplishing this task:

  1. Determining just how often to replace 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 packaging. It may read "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Check out the filters at the store and you'll see that some are meant to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have produced media air cleaners with filters meant to be exchanged once every 6-12 months. The standard seems to be once every three months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we tell our friends and family to go by. If it's dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to costly equipment, like your compressor, so it's recommended to change it out more often than to let it go. If you want to stick to 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. Also be aware that your filter manufacturer may have a different recommendation from your HVAC equipment manufacturer.

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

  • The type of air filter you are using
  • The overall air quality of your Fort Wayne area home
  • Pets – Birds, cats, dogs, hamsters (do you have one?), etc.
  • Number of occupants in the house
  • How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home

For the common 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturers basically suggest to change them bi-monthly, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. However, general rules aren't always for everybody. If you suffer from light to moderate allergies, you might require an upgraded air filter or change them even more frequently than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a less populated area, own a less 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 quick. Of course, the air filter is just doing its job by capturing pet hair and dander, but extremely dirty filters can cause weak 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
  • More than one pet or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days

How To Remember To Change Your Air Conditioner's Air Filters

Rolf Griffin Service Experts offers a simple solution; 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 Fort Wayne 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 of us know how to replace the air filter in their system, but some houses have an additional 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 maximum amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can decrease the life expectancy of your system if it isn't designed for it. Discovering whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy:

  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. Inspect for a filter. If one is there, 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 checking in with the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier dust will restrict 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 engineered to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may break down much faster than normal.
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