Do you know how you can purify your air, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and save money all at the same time? Better yet, it only takes five minutes.
You can do all these things and more just by changing your central air filters on a regular basis.
It’s true. Your air filter is a small, inexpensive part of your heating and cooling system, but leaving it alone too long can:
- Cause wear and tear on your HVAC system
- Send your energy bills sky-high
- Cause upper-respiratory problems
- Contribute to pollution
It’s easy to replace an air conditioning filter. Keep reading to learn what it does, why you should change it, and how to complete this simple household chore.
What Your Air Conditioning Filter Does
Your air conditioner filter collects irritants and allergens to prevent them from getting into your home’s air.
In a central air conditioner, you’ll find the filter situated along the return duct. Systems design them for installation in easy-to-reach locations like along walls, ceilings, or even in the air conditioner itself.
If you have a room air conditioner, you’ll find the filter in the side of the machine that faces the inside of the house.
How Often Should You Change Your Air Conditioning Filter?
Your schedule should factor in the age of your HVAC system, the allergens in your air, and the type of filter you buy.
Most air filter manufacturers rate their products for a specific number of months. Expect to change your filter once every one to three months. Typically, three months is the longest you should wait between replacements.
Why You Need to Replace Your Air Conditioning Filter
Replacing your filter is simple and inexpensive, but it’s also often neglected because the simplest things are also quickly forgotten about.
We recommend adding your filter replacement date to your calendar to make sure it gets done. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and don’t be afraid to replace the filter earlier if you live in an area that deals with peak pollen seasons or if someone in the house has asthma or allergies.
1. Clogged Air Filters Damage Your HVAC System
When your air filter becomes clogged, it causes dirt and dust to get backed up in your system.
The two leading causes of HVAC system issues are dirt and neglect.
The dirt and debris caught by your filter ultimately cause damage to your system by restricting air flow. If airflow becomes too severely restricted, ice may form and build upon your condenser coils resulting in problems.
Dirty filters challenge your heating and cooling system in ways that hurt everyone. Even if it’s dirty or restricted, your HVAC system continues to try working at full capacity and to do that, it might end up sucking out the filter in an attempt to improve air flow.
A dirty air filter means your system must work harder, which results in malfunctions, failures, and huge repair bills.
2. Clean Filters Mean Clean Air
Your filter serves several functions, but one of it’s most important uses is cleaning the air before it’s sent into your house.
You probably already know that a good air filter captures dust, dirt, pollen, and other allergens and irritants so your whole family can breathe easier.
While dust and pollen have the ability to drive your respiratory system wild, these two allergens are the least of your worries. There is more to air quality than naturally occurring irritants.
In any home or building, there are both indoor and outdoor contaminant sources of air pollution.
Here are a few things that damage your air and get into your HVAC system that you might not have thought about:
- Air fresheners
- Drain cleaners
- Waxes and polishes
- Cooking and microwave
- Tobacco products
- Personal products
- Vinyl/plastic wall and floor coverings
- Renovation or remodeling projects
These are just irritants from inside your house. Some of the stuff that enters your HVAC system from the outside include:
- General outdoor pollutants
- Local vehicular pollutants
- Local area sources like dry cleaning stores, restaurants, paint shops, or gas stations
- Pollution from power plants, water treatment plants, and utility power plants
- Exhaust from other buildings
- Water sources including pools of water on a roof
- Birds and rodents (nesting and fecal contamination)
- Trash areas
- Soil gas
- Underground fuel storage
- Sewer gas
The lists above aren’t comprehensive. They’re just a short look at the kind of pollution that impacts your indoor air quality.
When you change your air filters, you’re limiting dust, pollen, or pet dander. But you’re also protecting your air from chemicals, fumes, contaminants, and a huge number of irritants that you don’t want to breathe in.
When your filter gets dirty and clogged, your indoor air quality suffers. You will notice a dirty filter particularly if you have allergies or asthma.
As harmful stuff enters your indoor air, you’ll cough and sneeze. You may even experience headaches, fatigue, dizziness, or a sore throat.
3. Clean Air Filters Lower Your Operating Costs
When your air filter gets clogged, it takes more effort to force air through the system and maintain the right temperature.
Your HVAC system doesn’t quit; it sees the challenge and works harder to do its job.
HVAC systems that work harder than they need to waste more energy. They require more power from the grid to function, and the pieces break down faster. Changing your filter keeps your system running more efficiently.
4. Efficient HVAC Systems Save Money on Energy
You spend a huge amount of your energy budget on heating and cooling. The average American household hands over $2,200 a year to their energy company. Half of those costs come from running your HVAC system.
Changing your air filter is an integral part of maintaining your HVAC system. But, regular preventative maintenance is also essential to make a big difference in energy savings.
In addition to switching out your filter every few months, you or an HVAC service company should perform the following checks:
- Check and adjust thermostat settings
- Inspect system controls (on/off settings and operations)
- Tighten electrical connects
- Measure the voltage and current
- Lubricate essential parts
- Check the condensation drain
- Examine the heat pump
If you want to extend the life of your system and make sure your HVAC system hit peak efficiency, add these steps to your maintenance routine:
- Clean coils in the spring
- Inspect flue pipes
- Check refrigerant charge
- Clean blower components
- Check gas/oil connections and pressure
A bi-annual maintenance inspection keeps your system running efficiently and identifies problems quickly. When you see issues early, you can correct them before they snowball into corroded parts and sky-high energy bills.
5. Using Less Energy Reduces Your Home’s Emissions
Did you know that the energy you use in your house accounts for double the emissions you use in a car? Power plants burn fossil fuels to funnel electricity to your home. When you use less energy, you save money on energy and require less electricity.
If we use less electricity, energy companies burn less fossil fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gases, both our air quality and planet benefit.
How to Change Your Air Conditioner Filter
HVAC systems keep the filter accessible so that you’re able to change it on a regular basis without calling an engineer.
Changing your air conditioner filter is simple and requires only three easy steps:
- Find the filter
- Identify the filter
- Install the filter
Here’s how to complete the steps above:
1. Find the Filter
Your filter is likely in one of two places: behind the central vent (near the thermostat) or in a slot in your furnace.
If it’s not in either of those places, ask your HVAC service, and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
Before removing the current filter, make sure your HVAC system is completely off to ensure no air is passing through your system. Once you’re sure its switched off, remove the filter by hand.
2. Identify the Filter
Before you buy a replacement filter, you need to know what type and size you need. If you use an older fiberglass filter, which looks like a window screen, take its dimensions and replace it every thirty days.
Pleated filters are rectangular and include a diamond-shaped pattern. Replace these a minimum of once every three months, but shoot for every six weeks for the best results.
You’ll find media filters in furnaces. These are the largest filters you can buy, and you should replace them every six to nine months depending on the manufacturer’s instructions.
3. Install the Filter
Once the correct filter arrives, change it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure you turn off the HVAC system before making the switch.
Make a note of the date on the calendar and put a star next to the time when you’ll switch it next.
Replace Your Air Conditioning Filter Every Few Months
Replacing your filter is a simple part of your home’s heating and cooling maintenance, and it packs a big punch. Clean filters help your system function the way it should, cut your energy bills, and extend the life of your HVAC system.
Replace an air conditioning filter every one to three months or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Want to learn more about what air filters can do for your home? Click here for even more resources on our blog.