When Should I Change My Furnace's Air Filter?

February 26, 2015

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the best thing that Calgary area homeowner's can do to secure their air conditioning and heating system between their scheduled PLUS Maintenance Tune-ups? The answer is simple this; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is extremely important to the proper performance of your HVAC system, as well as 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 Calgary homeowners, but there are usually two hurdles to actually completing this job:

  1. Understanding just how often to change your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. Changing them when you’re suppose to.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a timeline printed on the wrapping. It may say "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Look around at the store and you'll notice that some are meant 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 three months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our friends and family to go by. If they're dirty, change them! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to expensive parts, like your compressor, so it's better to change it out more often than not. 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 programming a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also be aware that your filter manufacturer sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer.

Choosing how often to change your air filters hinges on several factors:

  • The type of air filter you are using
  • The overall air quality of your Calgary area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Number of occupants in the house
  • General air pollution in the Calgary area or construction taking place nearby

For your standard 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically tell you to change them every 30-60 days, which is actually a great rule of thumb. However, general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you put up with 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 less populated area, own a less occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, changing your air filter every 12-months may be quite sufficient. Why should you factor in your pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter quick. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping pet hair and dander, but extremely 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
  • Average suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
  • Add a dog or cat: Change every 60 days
  • More than one pet or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days

How To Remember To Change 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. Plus, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Calgary 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 people know how to replace the air filter in their unit, but some homes have another filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer's recommendation. Your system is designed to handle a certain amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can reduce the lifespan of your system if it isn't designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple:

  1. Locate your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to pull off the wall.
  3. Look 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 really alter your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier particles will restrict airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes more pressure on your system, so you ought to verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may break down much faster than the standard.

 

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