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

February 26, 2015

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the most important thing that Wheeling area homeowner's can do to ensure efficient functionality of 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. Buying new furnace and return air filters is critical to the proper performance of your HVAC system, not to mention your home's air quality. Did you know indoor air pollution is one of 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 Wheeling homeowners, but there are usually two obstacles to actually completing this job:

  1. Understanding just how often to swap out your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. 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". Check out the filters at the store and you'll notice 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 exchanged once every 6-12 months. The norm seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we suggest our customers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to expensive parts, like your compressor, so it's better to change it out more often than not. If you want to follow the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest writing the date on the filter when you swap it out, and setting a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also note that your filter manufacturer sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC equipment manufacturer.

Determining how often to change your air filters relies upon several factors:

  • Type of filter your A/C system requires
  • The collective air quality of your Wheeling area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • General air pollution in the Wheeling area or construction taking place nearby

For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically suggest to change them every 30-60 days, which is actually a great rule of thumb. But 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 remote 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 we call out our beloved pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter fast. Obviously, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but extremely dirty filters can cause seriously reduced 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

Comfort Masters 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. In addition, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Wheeling area home's air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or a specific date of your choice.

How to replace your return air filter

Most of you know how to replace the air filter in their equipment, but some houses have another filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your unit is made to handle a set amount of pressure in your home sweet home, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can reduce the life of your system if it isn't designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy:

  1. Go to 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 there, pull it out and record 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.
Incredible though it may seem, filters can really impact your home's airflow, which is why we recommend checking in with the manufacturer. A more expensive HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer 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 made to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may die off much faster than otherwise.
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