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

Occassionally we’re asked what is the number one thing that Columbus area homeowner’s can do to protect their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? The answer is simple this; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Buying new furnace and return air filters is critical to the proper performance of your HVAC system, plus your home’s air quality. Studies show that indoor air pollution is among 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 difficult for most Columbus homeowners, but there are often two challenges to actually getting it done: 

  1. Understanding just how often to change your furnace or air conditioner filter. 
  1. Remembering to change air filters when needed. 

When To Change Your Air Filters 

Most filters have a printed “expiration” date on the wrapping. It may read “Lasts up to 3 months” or “Change filter every 90 days”. Pay attention at the store and you’ll see that some are engineered to only last a single month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed once every 6-12 months. The standard seems to be once every few months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our readers to go by. If it’s dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to expensive parts, like your compressor, so it’s recommended to change it out more often than not. If you want to stick to the manufacturer’s recommended limit, we suggest writing the date on the filter when you swap it out, and adding a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also be aware that your filter manufacturer might have a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer. 
 
Choosing how often to change your air filters relies upon several factors: 

  • Which air filter your system requires 
  • The entire air quality of your Columbus area home 
  • Pets – Cats, dogs, birds, etc. 
  • Number of occupants in the house 
  • How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home 

For your standard 1″-3″ air filters, the manufacturers basically say to change them bi-monthly, which is really 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 regularly than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you’re in a low population area, own a seldom occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area where there are fewer cars around, annual replacement of your air filter may be quite sufficient. Why should you factor in your pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter in no time, just like a vacuum. Of course, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause seriously reduced HVAC performance. 

In summary: 

  • Infrequently occupied home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months 
  • Common suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days 
  • Got a cat or dog: 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 

Stevenson Service Experts offers a simple solution; sign up for the Service Experts Email Club. This is a great to receive discounts on service, tips and other helpful information directly to your email. 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 a specific date of your choice. 

How to replace your return air filter 

Most of us know how to replace the air filter in their equipment, but some residences have another filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer’s recommendation. Your unit is designed to handle a set amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can decrease the life of your system if it isn’t designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple: 

  • Find 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 note 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 alter your home’s airflow, which is why we recommend checking in with the manufacturer. A more expensive HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier debris will reduce 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 lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may wear out much faster than the standard. 

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