When Should I Change My Furnace's Air Filter?

February 26, 2015

Occassionally we’re asked what is the best thing that Jacksonville area homeowner's can do to maintain their air conditioning and heating system between their scheduled PLUS Maintenance Tune-ups? Our advice is simple; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is critical to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, as well as your home's air quality. Studies show that 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 difficult for most Jacksonville homeowners, but there are often two hurdles to actually completing this job:

  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 timeline printed on the packaging. It may read "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Pay attention at the store and you'll notice that some are meant to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have produced media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The standard seems to be once every few months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we tell our friends and family 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 neglect it. If you want to listen to the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest marking the date on the filter when you swap it out, and adding a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Keep in mind that your filter manufacturer sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC unit manufacturer.

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

  • Which air filter your system requires
  • The overall air quality of your Jacksonville area home
  • Pets – Birds, cats, dogs, hamsters (do you have one?), etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home

For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically suggest to change them every 30-60 days, which is really a great rule of thumb. However, generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. 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 less occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area where there are fewer cars around, changing your air filter every 12-months may be quite sufficient. Why should you factor in your pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter fast. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but exceptionally dirty filters can cause weak HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Infrequently occupied home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Average suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
  • Got a cat or dog: Change every 60 days
  • More than one pet or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days

How To Remember To Change Air Filters

Here’s an easy way to stay on top of this; 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 Jacksonville 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 people know how to replace the air filter in their system, but some homes have an extra filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer's recommendation. Your HVAC is designed to handle a certain amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can decrease the life expectancy of your system if it isn't designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is a piece of cake:

  1. Go to your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from the wall.
  3. Look for a filter. If one is inside, pull it out and note 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 really impact your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier particles will obstruct airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes more pressure on your system, so you should verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may die off much faster than otherwise.

 

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