Your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is essential for your year-round comfort and well-being. You know it works hard to keep you comfortable, but what do you do for it in return?
Regularly replacing your HVAC filter is one of the most straightforward home maintenance tasks you can perform, but many people fail to stay on top of this, significantly shortening the life of their HVAC system and elevating the cost of their monthly utility bills. What is the role of your HVAC filter, and how can changing it out make you a more responsible homeowner?
Factors That Will Affect Your Need to Change Your HVAC Filter
To regulate the temperature in your home, your HVAC system pulls air over coils to heat or chill it, then blows the tempered air through ducts to all the rooms in your home. The design and positioning of your filter allow it to trap airborne particles that get sucked in with the air and keeps them from blocking the blower and clogging up the coils. Clogs and blockages inside the HVAC system can cause it to work less efficiently and break down prematurely.
Generally, you’ll need to change your HVAC filter every one to three months, but you may need to do so more or less often, especially if anyone in your household has health issues such as asthma or allergies.
Pets are beloved family members who bring us joy and unconditional love, but they also shed, leaving hair and dander around the house. Indoor/outdoor pets can also bring pollen and other allergens inside with them. If you have pets — particularly if you have more than one — you should likely change your air filter every two months, perhaps more during peak allergy seasons in the spring and autumn.
As a parent, you’d do anything to keep your children healthy and safe, especially when they’re younger and they’re still growing and developing. Families with children should be more diligent about replacing their HVAC filter to preserve the cleanliness of your home and prevent illness.
How Frequently You Use Your HVAC System
In milder weather, you might not need to rely on your heating and air conditioning as much. However, if you live somewhere that sees extreme temperatures and you find yourself running your HVAC nearly around the clock to stay comfortable, you’ll probably need to change your filter more often as a result.
Size of Your Home
In general, an HVAC system will need to work harder to keep up with the heating and cooling needs of a house with a larger square footage. Smaller homes tend to use less air to reach the desired temperature. Keep in mind, however, that if your HVAC system is not the correct size for your house, you’ll likely experience more wear and tear due to frequent cycling on and off.
Air Quality Inside Your Home
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that levels of indoor air pollutants can exceed outdoor air pollution by as much as fivefold. Especially since most of us spend the majority of our time inside, it’s essential to keep dust and pollutants from circulating through your HVAC system. Many air filter manufacturers offer filters that can trap microscopic particles like pollen, mold spores, pet dander, volatile organic compounds and smoke from the air in your home.
Signs You Need to Change Your HVAC Filter
If you’re not already in the habit of checking and changing your HVAC filter on a regular schedule, what are some red flags that you might be overdue for a filter change?
- Your allergy symptoms are bothering you more than usual, indicating a drop in your indoor air quality.
- You’ve been having to dust and vacuum more often to keep your house clean.
- You notice your heating or cooling bills have unexpectedly spiked, despite your home’s energy usage remaining consistent.
- Your HVAC is running, but it doesn’t seem to be keeping you as comfortable as you’d like.
- A visual inspection of the filter reveals that it’s dirty and clogged with dust and debris.
Types of HVAC Filters
Most HVAC filters are disposable, typically made of pleated paper designed to trap as many pollutants and particles as possible. However, some HVAC filters are reusable; these require regular inspection and cleaning. If you visit the filter aisle at your local hardware store, you’ll notice that filters come in different dimensions. It’s crucial to select the correct size for your system, as using the wrong one can cause many of the same issues as not replacing the filter at all. If in doubt, double-check your owner’s manual to learn the recommended type and size for your system.
So, How Often Should You Change Your HVAC Filter?
As a general rule, most manufacturers design disposable air filters to last up to three months. However, you might discover you need to change yours more often. If outstanding indoor air quality is a must-have for you because members of your family live with allergies or asthma, or if you have pets or young children in your home, check your air filter once a month to see if it looks clogged and dirty.
You could also need to replace your filter more frequently if anyone in your household smokes, or if you have furniture or cleaning products that release volatile organic compounds. Running your HVAC system more often might also lead to the need to change your filter to keep airflow running freely throughout your ductwork.
How to Change Your HVAC Filter
If you’ve never replaced an HVAC filter before, don’t get intimidated! The good news is that doing so is typically one of the quickest, most inexpensive DIY home maintenance tasks. You shouldn’t need any special tools or equipment to change out your HVAC filter, and the process only takes a few minutes to complete.
- Locate your air filter. Usually, it’s either inside your A/C or furnace’s blower compartment, or behind a grille in your ceiling or wall.
- Turn off your HVAC system at the thermostat.
- Remove the old filter, taking note of the arrows along the edge. These indicate the correct direction of the airflow. When you install the new filter, make sure the arrows are pointing in the same direction.
- Close the grille and turn the HVAC back on.
- If the new filter came with a sticker to remind you when to replace it, write the date on the sticker and put it on your calendar. You can also put a digital reminder on your phone.
Still Not Sure? Contact the Professionals
If you don’t feel confident in your ability to change your HVAC filter, or if you have any other questions about your home’s heating and cooling needs, please reach out to us at Pileiro Heating and Cooling. As a proud member of the Air Conditioning Contractors Association of America and one of Home Advisor’s Top-Rated Pros, we offer personalized service to property owners in Cape May and Atlantic counties in New Jersey.