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

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the number one thing that the U.S. area homeowner’s can do to maintain their air conditioning and heating system between their seasonal 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, as well as your home’s air quality. Research suggests that 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 difficult for most the U.S. homeowners, but there are typically two challenges to actually accomplishing this task:

    1. Determining just how often to change your furnace or air conditioner filter.
    1. Remembering to change air filters when needed.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a timeline printed 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 one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed once every 6-12 months. The industry standard seems to be once every three 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 costly parts, like your compressor, so it’s better to change it out more often than not. If you want to listen to 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 system manufacturer.

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

    • Type of filter your A/C system requires
    • The entire air quality of your the U.S. area home
    • Pets – Cats, dogs, birds, etc.
    • Occupancy of the home
    • How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home

For the common 1″-3″ air filters, the manufacturer specs basically suggest to change them bi-monthly, which is really a great rule of thumb. Still, general guidelines are not applicable to all. 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 remote area, own a infrequently 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. Obviously, the air filter is just doing its job by capturing pet hair and dander, but exceptionally dirty filters can cause weak HVAC performance.

In summary:

    • Vacation home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
    • Typical 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. In addition, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your the U.S. 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 residences have another filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer’s recommendation. Your system is designed to handle a certain amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can shorten the life of your system if it isn’t designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy:

    • Go to your return air vents.
    • Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to take 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.

Incredible though it may seem, filters can dramatically affect your home’s airflow, which is why we recommend checking in with the manufacturer. A more expensive HEPA filter that is designed to catch smaller dust will obstruct airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes increased pressure on your system, so you ought to verify that your HVAC system was engineered to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may wear out much faster than otherwise.

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