Air filters are an essential part of your home’s HVAC system. Designed to catch debris like dust and pollen, filters ensure that the air you’re breathing is clean 24/7. AC filters have even more benefits on top of that, but you can’t enjoy any of them if you’re working with a dirty filter.
Learning how and when to change the air conditioning filter is important for homeowners. This easy part of home maintenance will help you save money, stay well, and avoid more complicated and expensive fixes in the future.
All about the AC filter
Your home’s AC filter is often located behind the return air grill, or inside of the return duct directly attached to the HVAC unit. Some filters are thin and transparent, and others are thick and pleated like an accordion. The accordion filters are often higher quality, because their shape and design lets more air pass through the filter. Since there’s more surface area, there’s more opportunity for it to collect debris, which can give it a longer functioning life span.
It’s good to know how often the professionals recommend you change your air filter, but there are also a few signs that can indicate it’s time. If you’ve noticed that your energy bill has significantly increased, or that the air doesn’t seem to be cooling well enough, it may mean that it’s time for a new filter. You should also check the filter if you’ve been having lots of allergy attacks, or have noticed dust gathering at the vents.
Three things that AC filters do
Help appliances work properly Just as our bodies tend to function better when we have clean air to breath, an HVAC system works better when it’s able to cycle clean air. The air filter keeps impurities out of the system by catching things like pet hair and dust. When the filter is old and dirty, debris can get through and into the HVAC system, which will decrease its efficiency. It could also cause damage to the system, which will be much more expensive to fix than just buying a new air filter.
Save you money on your energy bill When the air filter in your HVAC system is dirty, the unit has to work harder to do its job. As a result, the system uses up more energy to work than normal, costing you more money in the process.
Improves the air quality in your home When the air filter is able to remove pollution from the air going into the HVAC system, the heat and AC can deliver cleaner air for you to enjoy. Air filters help keep the air quality in your home high, and can reduce allergies and respiratory problems.
When to change the air filter
As with many maintenance items, there’s no one-size-fits-all schedule for when to change the AC filter. Although many professionals suggest a new filter every 90 days as a general guideline, there are numerous factors that will affect your filter schedule.
How often you use the system The more often you use an HVAC system, the more quickly the air filter will fill with dust and debris. If you live in a mild climate that only needs the AC for a few weeks out of the summer, you may be able to go months without changing it. If you’re in a family home that relies heavily on the HVAC system for heating and cooling most weeks of the year, then you’ll want to change the filter every 90 days, at most.
The number of people in your home The more people in your home, the more work the air filter will be doing. If you’re living alone in a small house, you can go much longer without changing the AC filter than if you lived with multiple roommates or a family with kids. With a full house, you’ll want to change the filter every three to six weeks in order to keep the air quality clean.
The number of pets in your home Furry friends like cats and dogs will add a lot of debris to the air in your home, not only through shedding but by bringing in more dirt and pollen from outside. If you have a pet that sheds and enjoys time outdoors, you need to change the AC filter more frequently.
Whether you have allergies If you have serious allergies, asthma, or are sensitive to allergens like dust or mold, you should change the air filter every four to six weeks. This will help you stay well and keep other sensitive guests comfortable.
The level of local pollution The location of your home and the quality of the air around it affects how often you need to change the filter. If you live out in the country where there is not much traffic, you can wait a little longer in between AC filters. But, if your home is in a city or on a busy road, you should change the filter more often to help keep pollution out of the air in your home.
The type of AC filter Not all air filters are created equal. Some filters are designed to be extra efficient, and will be able to go longer in between changes. Check the filter’s packaging to see the schedule recommended by the manufacturer, and adjust according to your unique circumstance.
How to change the air filter
Once you have located the air filter in your home’s HVAC unit, changing the air filter is simple. You can look up what type of air filter your system needs by calling the manufacturer, or by removing the current filter, which should have the information on the side.
With the new filter in hand, all it takes to change the air filters is removing the old and replacing the new in the same position as before. Just pay attention to how the original filter was situated in the unit, and insert the new one in the same way.
Learn more about Residential Indoor Air quality.