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

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the best thing that Philadelphia area homeowner’s can do to protect their air conditioning and heating system between their scheduled 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 critical to the effectiveness of your HVAC system, plus your home’s air quality. Did you know indoor air pollution is one of 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 Philadelphia homeowners, but there are often two hurdles to actually getting it done:

    1. Determining just how often to replace your furnace or air conditioner filter.
    1. Replacing them at the proper time.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a recommended guideline on the box or plastic. It may read “Lasts up to 3 months” or “Change filter every 90 days”. Look around at the store and you should see that some are engineered to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created 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 they’re dirty, change them! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to expensive components, like your compressor, so it’s best to change it out more often than to let it go. If you want to follow the manufacturer’s recommended limit, we suggest writing the date on the filter when you swap it out, and programming 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 system manufacturer.

Deciding how often to change your air filters can depend on several factors:

    • Type of filter your A/C system requires
    • The collective air quality of your Philadelphia area home
    • Pets – Cats, dogs, birds, etc.
    • Number of people in the home
    • General air pollution in the Philadelphia area or construction taking place nearby

For the common 1″-3″ air filters, the OEM specs basically say to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is really a great rule of thumb. Still, general rules aren’t always for everybody. If you have to endure light to moderate allergies, you might require an upgraded air filter or change them even more regularly than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you’re in a low population area, own a less occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, changing your air filter every 12-months 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. Naturally, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but extremely dirty filters can cause diminished HVAC performance.

In summary:

    • Infrequently occupied home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
    • Common suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
    • Add a dog or cat: Change every 60 days
    • Several pets or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days

How To Remember To Change Your Air Conditioner’s 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. Also, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Philadelphia 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 you know how to replace the air filter in their system, but some homes have another filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your unit is engineered to handle a set amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can shorten the life expectancy of your system if it isn’t designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple:

    • Locate your return air vents.
    • Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to pull off the wall.
    • Check for a filter. If one is inside, pull it out and write down the size.
    • Verify the filter type is the one recommended by the manufacturer.
    • 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 asking the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch smaller debris will restrict airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes increased pressure on your system, so you should verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may die off much faster than normal.

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