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

Sometimes we’re asked what is the number one thing that Columbus area homeowner’s can do to maintain their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? It’s a simple question with a simple answer; 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. Research suggests that indoor air pollution is in 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 difficult for most Columbus homeowners, but there are often two hurdles to actually getting it done: 

  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”. Check out the filters at the store and you’ll see that some are designed to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The standard seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our customers to go by. If it’s dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to pricey components, like your compressor, so it’s recommended to change it out more often than neglect it. 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 programming a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Keep in mind that your filter manufacturer sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer. 
 
Figuring out how often to change your air filters hinges on several factors: 

  • The type of air filter you are using 
  • The collective air quality of your Columbus area home 
  • Pets – Cats, dogs, birds, etc. 
  • Number of people in the home 
  • General air pollution in the Columbus area or construction taking place nearby 

For your typical 1″-3″ air filters, the manufacturers basically suggest to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is actually a great rule of thumb. Still, general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you have to endure light to moderate allergies, you might require an upgraded 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 seldom 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. Naturally, 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: 

  • Vacation home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months 
  • Average suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days 
  • Got a cat or dog: Change every 60 days 
  • More than one pet or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days 

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

It’s simple; 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 a specific date of your choice. 

How to replace your return air filter 

Most people know how to replace the air filter in their equipment, but some houses have an extra filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on what your unit’s manufacturer recommends. Your HVAC is engineered to handle a certain amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can shorten the life expectancy of your system if it isn’t designed for it. Learning 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. 
  • Inspect 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. 

Crazy as it may seem, filters can greatly impact your home’s airflow, which is why we recommend checking in with the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch smaller particles will reduce airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes greater pressure on your system, so you need to verify that your HVAC system was engineered to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may break down much faster than the standard. 

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