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

February 26, 2015

Occassionally we’re asked what is the best thing that Voorhees area homeowner's can do to secure their air conditioning and heating system between their scheduled tune-ups? The answer is simple this; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Buying new furnace and return air filters is extremely important to the effectiveness of your HVAC system, as well as your home's air quality. Research suggests 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 Voorhees homeowners, but there are usually two hurdles to actually accomplishing this task:

  1. Determining just how often to change 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 box or plastic. It may instruct "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 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 standard seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we suggest our readers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to pricey parts, like your compressor, so it's best to change it out more often than not. If you want to follow the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest scribbling the date on the filter when you swap it out, and adding a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also be aware that your filter manufacturer might have a different recommendation from your HVAC unit manufacturer.

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

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

For the common 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically tell you to change them every 30-60 days, which is actually a great rule of thumb. However, general rules aren't always for everybody. 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 low population 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 we call out our beloved pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter in no time, just like a vacuum. Clearly, 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
  • Average suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
  • House with a pet: 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. 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. But wait… there’s more, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Voorhees 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 equipment, but some residences have an extra filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your unit is designed to handle a set amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the more the blower motor works, which can reduce the life of your system if it isn't designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy:

  1. Locate your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to pull off the wall.
  3. Check for a filter. If one is in place, 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 dramatically affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend referring to the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer dust will reduce airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes more pressure on your system, so you need to verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may break down much faster than normal.
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