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

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the most important thing that the U.S. area homeowner’s can do to protect 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. Changing furnace and return air filters is crucial to the proper performance of your HVAC system, as well as your home’s air quality. Research suggests that indoor air pollution is in 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 usually two obstacles to actually completing this job: 

  1. Determining just how often to replace your furnace or air conditioner filter. 
  1. Replacing them at the proper time. 

When To Change Your Air Filters 

Most filters have a printed “expiration” date on the box or plastic. It may instruct “Lasts up to 3 months” or “Change filter every 90 days”. Pay attention at the store and you’ll notice that some are engineered to only last a single month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed once every 6-12 months. The norm seems to be once every three months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we tell our customers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to pricey components, like your compressor, so it’s recommended to change it out more often than not. 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 setting a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Keep in mind that your filter manufacturer might have a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer. 
 
Choosing how often to change your air filters relies upon 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. 
  • Number of people in the home 
  • General air pollution in the the U.S. area or construction taking place nearby 

For the common 1″-3″ air filters, the OEM specs basically say to change them bi-monthly, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. However, general rules aren’t always for everybody. If you have to tolerate light to moderate allergies, you may need to upgrade the air filter or change them even more often than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you’re in a less populated area, own a less 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 should you factor in your 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 seriously reduced 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 
  • 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 

It’s simple; 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. But wait… there’s more, 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 of you know how to replace the air filter in their equipment, but some homes have another filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your HVAC is made to handle a maximum amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the more the blower motor works, which can reduce the lifespan of your system if it isn’t designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy: 

  • Locate 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 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 greatly affect your home’s airflow, which is why we recommend referring to the manufacturer. A more expensive HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier dust will reduce 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 built to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may wear out much faster than normal. 

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