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

Sometimes we’re asked what is the most important thing that Columbus area homeowner’s can do to protect their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? Our advice is simple; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Changing furnace and return air filters is crucial to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, not to mention your home’s air quality. Research suggests that 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 difficult for most Columbus homeowners, but there are often two challenges 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 recommended guideline on the wrapping. It may instruct “Lasts up to 3 months” or “Change filter every 90 days”. Look around at the store and you should see 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 norm seems to be once every few months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we tell our customers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can exacerbate or cause damage to pricey equipment, like your compressor, so it’s best to change it out more often than not. If you want to stick to the manufacturer’s recommended limit, we suggest scribbling the date on the filter when you swap it out, and adding a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Keep in mind that your filter manufacturer might have a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer. 
 
Deciding how often to change your air filters hinges on several factors: 

  • The type of air filter you are using 
  • The entire air quality of your Columbus area home 
  • Pets – Birds, cats, dogs, hamsters (do you have one?), etc. 
  • Number of people in the home 
  • How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home 

For the common 1″-3″ air filters, the manufacturer specs basically say to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is actually a great rule of thumb. However, general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you have to tolerate light to moderate allergies, you might require an upgraded air filter or change them even more regularly than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you’re in a remote area, own a infrequently 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 fast. Obviously, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping pet hair and dander, but exceptionally dirty filters can cause weak HVAC performance. 

In summary: 

  • Seldom used home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months 
  • Average suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days 
  • Add a dog or cat: Change every 60 days 
  • Several 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 convenient way to get money-saving discounts and other helpful information on your smartphone, tablet or desktop. 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 the date of your choosing. 

How to replace your return air filter 

Most of us know how to replace the air filter in their equipment, but some houses have an additional filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer’s recommendation. Your system is made to handle a certain amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can reduce the life expectancy of your system if it isn’t designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple: 

  • Go to your return air vents. 
  • Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from the wall. 
  • Check for a filter. If one is inside, 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. 

Amazing as it may seem, filters can really impact your home’s airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch smaller debris will restrict airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes greater pressure on your system, so you ought to verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may wear out much faster than the standard. 

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