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Is It Dangerous To Run Your Furnace Without A Filter?

Are you tired of replacing the filter in your furnace every few months? Are you tempted to just take it out and run your furnace without a filter? Anyone that’s had to head to the hardware store in the middle of winter to buy a filter for their furnace has had that thought, but can your furnace function without a filter?

The short answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. You can run your car without oil, but that doesn’t mean your engine won’t eventually explode. Learn why a filter is important and what will happen to your furnace without one.

Why is the Filter Important?

Your home is filled with all kinds of microscopic stuff. There’s cat hair, dead skin cells, bacteria, dust, and countless other small particles that fill your home from top to bottom.

There’s not much you can do about it unless you have a large air purifier, so they’re just hanging out in the air, waiting to be breathed in by you and your family.

Your furnace needs air to warm up if it’s going to heat your home. It does this by sucking the air from inside your home through the intake vents and into the furnace. When it sucks in the air, all those particles come with it.

A furnace filter traps those particles and keeps them from entering the furnace. Over time, the particles add up and clog the filter, which is why you need to change it. An unchanged filter would cause the furnace to work harder at pulling the same amount of air through the filter.

A Furnace Without a Filter Creates Poor Air Quality

Gravity pulls the pet dander, bacteria, and other particles to the floor. They’re in the air for a while, but they settle. When the furnace sucks in the air, it agitates the particles and then travels into the furnace.

The heat from the furnace destroys some of it, but the rest flies through the vents and into the air. It’s now airborne and you and your family breathe it.

This decreases the overall air quality of the home. Your lungs don’t want to breathe in dust and pet dander, and it can lead to breathing difficulties.

This is especially true for people with breathing problems such as asthma and COPD. The reaction could be minor or severe. People with severe asthma or pet allergies can require hospitalization.

A filter keeps those particles trapped from continually cycled through your home’s air.

It Increases the Chances of Illness in the Home

When your body is fighting off the invasion of pet dander and dust, it can lower your immune system. This makes you more susceptible to general viruses and illnesses. Also, the wintertime keeps people inside where they are around sick people and a bevy of viruses.

Just like the dust and pet dander, bacteria and viruses get caught up and fed through the ventilation system over and over again without a filter. When you add a compromised immune system and plenty of bacteria and viruses in the air you get a perfect storm for sickness.

No Filter Could Damage Your Furnace

While the filter helps with air quality, it’s real purpose is to keep those particles from accumulating on the furnace machinery. Your furnace has many small parts and dust and other particles can add up quickly on them.

This can cause the machinery to malfunction and eventually break. You might notice the furnace not working as well as it used to or sounds coming from the belts and then it might fail altogether.

If you’re lucky, the furnace only needs a good cleaning. If it goes on too long and something breaks, then you’ll need an expensive repair and in some scenarios, a new furnace altogether.

The furnace never breaks down on a balmy day and usually chooses a severely cold day because it’s being heavily used. You could end up paying extra fees for emergency repair or repairs outside of the normal business hours.

If they can’t get to you soon or need to order a part, then you’ll end up paying for a hotel room for you and your family until the furnace is fixed.

A Furnace Without a Filter Can Cause a Fire

You may not think that small dust particles are flammable, but when they become concentrated on hot furnace parts, then they can catch fire. At the very least, it damages the furnace beyond repair, but if the fire spreads then it can endanger your home and the lives of your family.

The filter keeps this from happening, so it’s important to have a filter in your furnace at all times. While the furnace will work without one, the risks highly outweigh rewards.

Ok, So I Won’t Change the Filter

This is a common problem because people often forget to change the filter or put it off again and again. A clean air filter allows air to pass freely through it and into the furnace. It captures particles but doesn’t restrict the airflow.

When it gets clogged, the airflow is diminished, and the furnace must work harder to get the same amount of air. This adds wear and tear to the machines and reduces the overall lifespan of the furnace.

Eventually, the extra work adds up and something will break.

Don’t Risk Going Without a Filter

The filter may seem inconsequential at first, but it’s one of the most important parts of the furnace. Running a furnace without a filter opens you up to poor air quality, fire hazards, costly repairs, and a possibly broken furnace. Take a few minutes to routinely change your filter every 3 months and you’ll keep your furnace running strong and your quality of air good.

If you want to find quality furnace filters at unbeatable prices that are shipped to your door for free, then check out our site to easily find your filter size.

6 thoughts on “Is It Dangerous To Run Your Furnace Without A Filter?”

  1. Interesting Article and great information on why you need to change your Furnace Filter.

  2. Years ago before we retired from our indoor air quality business, we cleaned many evaporator coils that were totally clogged with dust build up. In some cases when we opened up the furnace to access the coil, we were able to remove the accumulation which resembled a sheet of felt from the face of the coil. We always recommended to our clients that they maintain clean filters. Also a clogged filter causes the air to find other ways into the furnace such as found in inadequate filter holders where the unfiltered air can bypass the filter altogether.

  3. I change my filter every three months. I inspect it twice per month. I use a Filtrete 1085 micro allergan filter. I question whether changing every 3 months is the right interval. For one thing the air handler runs more in the summer and winter than in the spring and fall. After 20 or 30 days the white filter turns grey with trapped particles. I bought a box of filters from Discount Filters for my rental awhile back. Any recommendations or suggestions? What is your price for a box of similar (or the same) filters (20 x. 25 x 1)? Thank you.

  4. I’d like your comments on filter selection for different home furnaces. I’ve observed in my contracting business that people often select filters that are overly restrictive, especially for older 80% furnaces, causing a variety of problems. The problems include reduced efficiency, poor airflow, and overheating as well as higher filter costs than are really necessary.

    • This is a big concern for many older units. Usually people go with a fiberglass filter in this situation for better airflow even though filtering efficiency is very low. We actually developed a pleated filter specifically to address this issue. It’s called the Air Beast and it has 65% more filter media to provide greater system airflow with great filtering capability. This will prevent the problem of efficiency and overheating like you mentioned. We have more information on the Air Beast here: https://www.discountfilters.com/furnace-filters/air-beast

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