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

Occassionally we’re asked what is the most important thing that Columbus area homeowner’s can do to ensure efficient functionality of their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? That’s an easy one; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Buying new furnace and return air filters is crucial to the proper performance of your HVAC system, not to mention your home’s air quality. Did you know indoor air pollution is in 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 Columbus homeowners, but there are usually two challenges to actually getting it done:

    1. Understanding just how often to change 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 wrapping. 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 meant to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The industry 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 they’re dirty, change them! A dirty air filter can exacerbate or cause damage to expensive components, like your compressor, so it’s best to change it out more often than not. If you want to stick 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 sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer.

Figuring out how often to change your air filters can depend on several factors:

    • Which air filter your system requires
    • The entire air quality of your Columbus area home
    • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
    • Number of occupants in the house
    • General air pollution in the Columbus area or construction taking place nearby

For your typical 1″-3″ air filters, the manufacturer specs basically tell you to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. Still, general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you put up with light to moderate allergies, you might need to upgrade your air filter or change them even more often than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you’re in a remote area, own a infrequently 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 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 extremely dirty filters can cause diminished HVAC performance.

In summary:

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

How To Remember To Change Your Air Conditioner’s Air Filters

Here’s an easy way to stay on top of this; sign up for the Service Experts Email Club. This is a great to receive discounts on service, tips and other helpful information directly to your email. Also, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Columbus 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 of us know how to replace the air filter in their unit, but some houses have an additional filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on what your unit’s manufacturer recommends. Your unit is engineered to handle a maximum amount of pressure in your home sweet home, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can shorten 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:

    • Go to 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 in place, pull it out and note 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.

Incredible though it may seem, filters can greatly alter your home’s airflow, which is why we recommend checking in with the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer particles will restrict 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 might experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may die off much faster than normal.

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