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

February 26, 2015

Sometimes we’re asked what is the most important thing that Fort Wayne area homeowner's can do to ensure efficient functionality of their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? Our advice is simple; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is extremely important to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, plus your home's air quality. Studies show that indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks? We know it's the last thing on your mind, but this is really important stuff. Changing the air filters is not all that hard for most Fort Wayne homeowners, but there are typically two hurdles to actually getting it done:

  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 designed to only last a single 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 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 sometimes has 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 your standard 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically suggest to change them every 30-60 days, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. However, general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you suffer from light to moderate allergies, you may need to upgrade the 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 infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, annual replacement of your air filter may be quite sufficient. Why do pets matter so much? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter fast. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping 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

It's simple; sign up for the Service Experts Email Club. This is a great to receive discounts on service, tips and other helpful information directly to your email. 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 people know how to replace the air filter in their system, but some homes 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 certain amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can decrease the life of your system if it isn't designed for it. Discovering whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple:

  1. Locate 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 inside, 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.
Crazy as it may seem, filters can really affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer dust 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 engineered to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may break down much faster than normal.
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