At the very least, the air filter for your HVAC system should be changed every 60-90 days. It’s good to have that ballpark timeline to help you continue to change it regularly.
But sometimes an air filter won’t last that long and you’ll need to change it early. This need to change it early is generally caused by environmental factors, like a particularly dusty fall season or wildfires nearby. Whatever the reason may be, it’s important to change the filter when it’s worn out so your system is as efficient as possible.
We’ve compiled a list of the top seven signs that you need a new furnace filter to help you know what to look for.
1. Burning Smell
When your HVAC system is running, whether blowing warm or cool air, and you smell a burning smell, it’s time to change your filters. The exception to this is the first time you turn your furnace on for the season but the smell should only last a brief period.
This burning smell could come from two places. One all of the excess dirt and dust that’s accumulated on the filter itself because it’s full. And two from pieces within the HVAC system because it’s working too hard to push the air through. When a filter becomes clogged the air can’t move through, so the machine has to go into overdrive.
If you notice a burning smell while the system is on, it’s a good time to check your filter before calling in reinforcements.
2. Excessive Allergy Symptoms
Those with allergies know the discomfort that comes from sustained exposure to dust and allergens. And that’s why they generally pay close attention to the type of filter they use in their home.
Having an air filter that’s designed to help with allergies will do you little good if you don’t change it often enough.
When the filter gets full and worn out, you’ll likely start to experience a heightened amount of allergies; more sneezing, itchy eyes, and tickles in your throat. If you can’t seem to get rid of the symptoms or it’s out of season for you, it’s time to change your filter and get cleaner air in your home.
3. System Running Harder
After you’ve lived in a home for a little while, you know how long the HVAC system normally runs to keep the temperature regulated. If you start to notice that the system seems to have to work harder, the first thing to check is the furnace filter.
A clogged filter can cause a lot of damage to a system. Prolonged use with a bad filter may even result in costly HVAC repairs.
It’s important to make sure the unit isn’t having to work harder so that parts don’t wear out prematurely.
4. Visible Dust on Vent
It’s normal to have a bit of dust on your air vents. That would make sense since that’s where it’s all being stopped in your HVAC unit. But excessive dust on your return vent can be an indication that your filter is bad.
If you look at your air vents and can see a large accumulation of dust or dirt, especially if it’s dark gray, it’s definitely time to change your filter.
5. Extra Dirt Everywhere
Similarly, if you notice an increase in the amount of dirt and dust around your house, you may need to change the filter.
There are obviously many reasons that you could have more dirt around the house; kids and pets being some of the top offenders. But if you notice the dirt and can’t explain where it came from or if you can’t seem to catch up with it and keep the area clean, it’s probably a filter problem.
The air filters are designed to collect all of that dirt and dust. So if it becomes full, all of those impurities simply go through the system and are pumped into your home.
6. Utility Bills Increasing
One of the worst surprises is an unusually high utility bill. Utility bills are calculated in the exact same way each month, so the variation in cost is usually very minimal. As you live in the home you know what to expect each month and the changes you’ll see as the seasons change.
If you receive an unexpectedly high utility bill, and especially if you continue to see a higher rate, a good place to start is looking at your air filter.
Like we’ve said when the filter is clogged the whole system has to work harder. This means that it’s probably taking longer to regulate the temperature, increasing the power it uses and, therefore, increasing your bill.
7. Looks Blown-out
If you suspect a problem with your air filter, the first thing to do is give it a visual inspection.
Filters have a pleated interior that looks crisp and sharp. When it’s been used, those pleats loosen a bit and the whole filter looks softer. When you look at the filter and it looks completely flat and blown-out, it’s no longer doing its job.
During your next furnace filter installation, take a closer look at what a new filter looks like so you can compare that to a used one. This will help you determine if it’s time to change it again or not.
When to Get a New Furnace Filter
When it’s time to get a new furnace filter you want to change that out as quickly as possible. That ensures that you and your household aren’t breathing in added dust and dirt all day.
Changing out a filter is a quick and easy process that anyone can handle on their own. But it’s important to make sure you have the right filter for your specific HVAC system. Our selection of American-made AIRx Filters has something for every system and home. Find your next air filter today!