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

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the most important thing that Columbus area homeowner’s can do to secure their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? That’s an easy one; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is crucial to the proper performance of your HVAC system, plus your home’s air quality. Did you know 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 a tough thing to do for most Columbus homeowners, but there are typically two hurdles to actually completing this job: 

  1. Determining just how often to replace your furnace or air conditioner filter. 
  1. Replacing them at the proper time. 

When To Change Your Air Filters 

Most filters have a timeline printed on the packaging. It may say “Lasts up to 3 months” or “Change filter every 90 days”. Pay attention at the store and you’ll notice that some are meant 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 industry standard seems to be once every three months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we suggest our friends, and family to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can exacerbate or cause damage to costly parts, like your compressor, so it’s better to change it out more often than neglect it. If you want to listen to the manufacturer’s recommended limit, we suggest marking the date on the filter when you swap it out, and adding a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also note that your filter manufacturer may have a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer. 
 
Determining how often to change your air filters can depend on several factors: 

  • The type of air filter you are using 
  • The entire air quality of your Columbus area home 
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc. 
  • Occupancy of the home 
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home 

For the common 1″-3″ air filters, the OEM specs basically tell you to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. Still, generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. If you suffer from light to moderate allergies, you may need to upgrade the air filter or change them even more often than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you’re in a low population area, own a less occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with few automobiles and trucks, changing your air filter every 12-months may be quite sufficient. Why do pets matter so much? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter in no time, just like a vacuum. Obviously, 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: 

  • Infrequently occupied 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 
  • Multiple pets or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days 

How To Remember To Change Your Air Conditioner’s Air Filters 

Here’s an easy way to stay on top of this; 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. Also, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Columbus area home’s air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or any date you find most convenient. 

How to replace your return air filter 

Most of us know how to replace the air filter in their unit, but some houses have an additional filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer’s recommendation. Your unit is made to handle a set amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can decrease the lifespan of your system if it isn’t designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy: 

  • Go to your return air vents. 
  • Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to pull off the wall. 
  • Check for a filter. If one is in place, pull it out and write down the size. 
  • Verify the filter type is the one recommended by the manufacturer. 
  • If the filter is dirty, replace with the manufacturer’s recommended filter of the same size and type. 

Incredible though it may seem, filters can dramatically affect your home’s airflow, which is why we recommend checking in with the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer dust will restrict airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes increased pressure on your system, so you ought to verify that your HVAC system was engineered to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may wear out much faster than otherwise. 

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