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

February 26, 2015

Sometimes we’re asked what is the most important thing that Grand Island 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. Changing furnace and return air filters is critical to the effectiveness of your HVAC system, plus your home's air quality. Studies show that indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks? You probably don’t consider it as you sit and watch TV, but this is the air you breathe day and night. Changing the air filters is not all that hard for most Grand Island homeowners, but there are usually two hurdles to actually completing this job:

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

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a recommended guideline on the packaging. It may read "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Check out the filters at the store and you'll notice that some are meant to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed once every 6-12 months. The standard seems to be once every three months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we suggest our customers to go by. If they're dirty, change them! A dirty air filter can contribute 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 stick to the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest marking the date on the filter when you swap it out, and programming 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 unit manufacturer.

Deciding how often to change your air filters can depend on several factors:

  • Type of filter your A/C system requires
  • The overall air quality of your Grand Island area home
  • Pets – Cats, dogs, birds, etc.
  • Number of people in the home
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home

For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically tell you to change them every 30-60 days, which is really a great rule of thumb. But generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. If you have to tolerate 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 less populated area, own a seldom occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with few automobiles and trucks, annual replacement of your air filter may be quite sufficient. Why do we call out our beloved pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter fast. Of course, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause weak HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Vacation home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Typical 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

McElroy 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. But wait… there’s more, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Grand Island 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 system, but some houses have another filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on what your unit's manufacturer recommends. Your HVAC is designed to handle a maximum amount of pressure in your home, 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. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy:

  1. Go to your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from the wall.
  3. Check for a filter. If one is in place, pull it out and write down the size.
  4. Verify the filter type is the one recommended by the manufacturer.
  5. If filter is dirty, replace with the manufacturer's recommended filter of the same size and type.
Crazy as it may seem, filters can greatly affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer debris will obstruct 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 built to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may break down much faster than otherwise.
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