Every once in a while we’re asked what is the best thing that Cleveland area homeowner's can do to ensure efficient functionality of their air conditioning and heating system between their regular PLUS Maintenance 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 effectiveness of your HVAC system, not to mention your home's air quality. Studies show that indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks? You probably don’t consider it as you sit and watch TV, but this is the air you breathe day and night. Changing the air filters is not a tough thing to do for most Cleveland homeowners, but there are often two obstacles to actually getting it done:
- Understanding just how often to swap out your furnace or air conditioner filter.
- Changing them when you’re suppose to.
When To Change Your Air Filters
Most filters have a timeline printed on the box or plastic. It may instruct "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Check out the filters at the store and you should see that some are designed 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 standard seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we suggest 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 neglect it. If you want to stick to 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 note that your filter manufacturer sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC unit manufacturer.
Determining how often to change your air filters can depend on several factors:
- The type of air filter you are using
- The overall air quality of your Cleveland area home
- Pets – Birds, cats, dogs, hamsters (do you have one?), etc.
- Number of people in the home
- How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home
For the common 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically suggest to change them every 30-60 days, which is really a great rule of thumb. But generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. If you suffer from light to moderate allergies, you might require an upgraded air filter or change them even more frequently than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a less populated area, own a infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, annual replacement of your air filter may be quite sufficient. Why do pets matter so much? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter in no time, just like a vacuum. Of course, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but exceptionally dirty filters can cause weak HVAC performance.
- Vacation 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 Air Filters
Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning 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. But wait… there’s more, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Cleveland area home's air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or the date of your choosing.
How to replace your return air filter
Most of us know how to replace the air filter in their unit, but some houses have an additional filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on what your unit's manufacturer recommends. Your HVAC is made to handle a certain amount of pressure in your home sweet home, and the more filters you have the more 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.
- Look for a filter. If one is there, pull it out and record the size.
- Verify the filter type is the one recommended by the manufacturer.
- If filter is dirty, replace with the manufacturer's recommended filter of the same size and type.
Amazing as it may seem, filters can dramatically alter your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A more expensive HEPA filter that is designed to catch smaller particles will obstruct airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes more pressure on your system, so you need to verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may break down much faster than the standard.