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 regular tune-ups? That’s an easy one; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Changing furnace and return air filters is crucial to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, in addition to your home’s air quality. Did you know 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 a tough thing to do for most the U.S. homeowners, but there are usually two hurdles to actually completing this job: 

  1. Determining just how often to swap out your furnace or air conditioner filter. 
  1. 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 notice that some are engineered to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The industry standard seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our customers to go by. If it’s dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to expensive parts, like your compressor, so it’s recommended to change it out more often than to let it go. 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 sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer. 
 
Figuring out how often to change your air filters relies upon several factors: 

  • Which air filter your system requires 
  • The collective air quality of your the U.S. area home 
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc. 
  • Occupancy of the home 
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home 

For your standard 1″-3″ air filters, the manufacturers basically say to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. However, general rules aren’t always for everybody. If you suffer from light to moderate allergies, you might need to upgrade your 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. Naturally, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping 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 
  • Multiple pets or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days 

How To Remember To Change Your Air Conditioner’s Air Filters 

Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing offers a simple solution; 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 the U.S. 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 unit, but some houses have another filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer’s recommendation. Your HVAC is made 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 lifespan of your system if it isn’t designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is a piece of cake: 

  • Locate your return air vents. 
  • Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to pull off the wall. 
  • Inspect for a filter. If one is inside, pull it out and record the size. 
  • Verify the filter type is the one recommended by the manufacturer. 
  • If the 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 checking in with 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 greater pressure on your system, so you ought to verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may wear out much faster than otherwise. 

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