Which Way Does My Air Filter Go?

You need to change your air filter, but it’s been a while and you’re not sure where to start. Well, we’re glad you decided to refresh your memory. Clean air filters improve your indoor air quality and minimize the wear and tear on your Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. When you insert your air filter the wrong way it won’t filter your home’s air very efficiently, which can lead to a variety of maintenance problems.  You can experience even worse problems if you don’t change your air filter at all.

1) Turn Off the Power to Your Furnace or Air Handler

Your air filter can collect a lot of dust, so it’s a good idea to always turn off the power to your furnace since you don’t want to suck up the dislodged dust into your unprotected HVAC system.

2) Locate the Air Filter You’re Replacing

In most instances, your filter is located near your furnace. If you need help locating your furnace filter or air conditioner filter, then click here. You may have a return air grille, air cleaner cabinet or media type filter. It all depends on your type of HVAC system.

3) Discard Your Old Filter After You’ve Found Its Location 

Be careful when you pull out your old air filter since it’s probably collected quite a bit of dust and other particles. If you’re worried about throwing you air filter away, then you might want to check out our washable filters.

4) Insert Your New Air Filter

Luckily, most filters are made so they won’t fit right unless they’re inserted in the correct direction. There should be airflow arrows printed on the side of the air filter to indicate what direction the filter should be inserted. When you insert your new filter, the arrow should point toward the furnace.

Air Flow

5) Turn the Power to Your Furnace Back On

Now that you’ve learned how to properly change your air filter and made sure it’s inserted correctly, you’ll be able to fully enjoy your clean, filtered air. If you’re needing new filters, we have you covered with high quality filters at the lowest prices.

NOTE:  In case your filter doesn’t have an airflow arrow, there is typically a wire mesh on the downstream side of the filter. The purpose of this wire mesh is to give the filter the rigidity and strength it needs to capture particles. If your air filter doesn’t have an airflow arrow, then make sure the mesh is facing the blower of your HVAC system since this is the last surface the air touches.

For any other questions concerning your home’s air filter, talk to our customer service, comment down below, or visit the air filters section of the blog.

31 thoughts on “Which Way Does My Air Filter Go?”

  1. Regarding the comment: “When you insert your new filter, the arrow should point toward the furnace.”

    My vent is in the ceiling. Does that mean the arrow points down?

  2. My ceiling filter has no arrow or mesh edge. Both sides look the same. I just removed a 4 mo old filter and it didn’t look dirty. Now wondering if it was inserted right

    • Hey Betsy! In this case the filter can likely be inserted either way. If it doesn’t appear dirty then it might be okay to keep. Is this a pleated or fiberglass filter?

  3. I bought a washable filter and it looks the same on both sides…so does it matter which side is which?

    • Hey Ed! Some of our air filter models are designed to have a directional airflow. Check the label on your filter frame before you install it. If the label does not have an airflow arrow, it means that the model design can be installed on either side.

  4. So following that logic Dennis; our house has two floor levels, the lower level has three ceiling filters and the upstairs level has two separate ceiling filters. All ceiling filters should have the arrows facing up towards the roof.

    Our HVAC system does not have a filter near the air handler & furnace which is located in the attic. It is the dustiest house I have ever lived in and is only 5 years old. Is there a way to add a filter at the air handler.?


  5. My filter inserts into the furnace. And it is 20×20 so no clue there. Have any suggestions as to which way it goes. . The return. Flow comes in under the filter. So does the metal grid go up or down? Thanks!

    • Hey Judy! If there’s no arrow on the filters, make sure the metal mesh is facing the HVAC blower. If the air passes under and through your filter, the mesh side will face upwards.

  6. My filters don’t have an arrow.
    One side is dark orange and the other side is very light colored…help ???

  7. When installing new furnace filters and filters go in the grill/door which way should the metal mesh side be? Next to grill or facing inside towards furnace?

    • Hey Nancy! The mesh side will face towards the furnace. Think of the metal as a support that sits behind the filter media to keep its rigidity as the air passes through it. Hope this helps!

  8. I live in a small apartment and my furnace is located in a closet type area. Does that closet act as a return? It has a vent at the top of the closet. So the arrow points toward the furnace? Right?

    • Hey there! We’re not sure if the return is located there or elsewhere in the apartment. The arrows on the filter should point toward the furnace to have those arrows pointing the direction of the airflow through the ducts and into the furnace. Hope this helps!

  9. I have a airfilter and arrow is pointing down for airflow which way should i put it in for a ceiling

    • Hey Hannah! I’m guessing that this is a return air vent. In this case the arrow would be pointing up as the air travels up through the vent before being pumped into the HVAC unit. Hope this helps!

  10. this did not help me at all.my filter is in front of the ac unit.so the arrow would have to be pointing straight forward to be pointing to the unit.up or down does not point to anything but the ground or the roof.my filter has to be laid down flat not sideways.

    • Hey Joe! If your filter lays flat or horizontally, you’ll still use the same idea of pointing the arrow in the direction of the airflow. If the air flows through the filter before moving into the HVAC system, then the arrow will face towards the blower. If the filter is after the system in terms of the airflow stream, then the arrow will point away from the system. Perhaps this video will help: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVYdDifRvbg

      We hope this helps!

  11. I have a washable air filter
    No arrows
    One side has downstream writing on it and it is smoother than the other side
    Does it mean the downsream side is the inside and the other side is outside?

    • Hey Haney! Does either side of the filter have any metal mesh? If so, that side will face towards the blower of your system. If there’s no mesh, the side labeled downstream will face towards the blower. Hope this helps!

    • Hey Betty! The downstream side will face towards the furnace or on the inside of the grill. Hope this helps!

  12. Can you please help I’m having lots of confusion. I have a ceiling filter where the air is being sucked in. If I install the filter according to the arrows the metal mesh side will be down facing the grill and not the furnace as you have stated in here to someone else. So is that the proper way or should I place it the other way so
    That the wire mesh is facing up but the arrows down even though the airflow is going up. This is where the confusion lies.

    • Hey Joe! The mesh should be on the opposite side of the grill. That way the air flows through the filter before hitting the mesh. Hope this helps!

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