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

February 26, 2015

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the most important thing that Medina area homeowner's can do to protect their air conditioning and heating system between their scheduled tune-ups? Our advice is simple; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Buying new furnace and return air filters is critical to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, in addition to your home's air quality. Studies show that 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 all that hard for most Medina homeowners, but there are usually two obstacles to actually completing this job:

  1. Knowing just how often to change your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. Remembering to change air filters when needed.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a timeline printed on the wrapping. It may read "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Look around at the store and you'll see that some are engineered to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed once every 6-12 months. The standard seems to be once every few months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we suggest our friends and family to go by. If it's dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to expensive equipment, like your compressor, so it's recommended to change it out more often than not. If you want to stick to the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest writing the date on the filter when you swap it out, and setting 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.

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

  • Type of filter your A/C system requires
  • The collective air quality of your Medina area home
  • Pets – Cats, dogs, birds, etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home

For the common 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically tell you to change them every 30-60 days, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. However, 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 regularly than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a remote area, own a seldom 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 we call out our beloved pets? 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 diminished HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Vacation home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Average 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

Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning offers a simple solution; sign up for the Service Experts Email Club. When you do, you can elect to receive (or not) great email coupons and newsletters with a lot of tips and discounts on AC repairs and tune-ups. In addition, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Medina 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 equipment, but some houses have an additional filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your system is designed to handle a set 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 simple:

  1. Locate your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from the wall.
  3. Inspect for a filter. If one is inside, pull it out and note the size.
  4. Verify the filter type is the one recommended by the manufacturer.
  5. If filter is dirty, replace with the manufacturer's recommended filter of the same size and type.
Amazing as it may seem, filters can greatly affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch smaller debris will obstruct airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes greater pressure on your system, so you should verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may break down much faster than normal.
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