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

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the best thing that Columbus area homeowner’s can do to secure their air conditioning and heating system between their scheduled tune-ups? That’s an easy one; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Changing furnace and return air filters is critical to the proper performance of your HVAC system, not to mention your home’s air quality. Studies show that indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks? It’s not thought of often, but it is extremely important to consider. Changing the air filters is not a tough thing to do for most Columbus homeowners, but there are typically two hurdles to actually getting it done: 

  1. Determining just how often to replace 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 box or plastic. It may say “Lasts up to 3 months” or “Change filter every 90 days”. Pay attention at the store and you should see that some are engineered to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The industry standard seems to be once every three 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 add or cause damage to costly 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 writing the date on the filter when you swap it out, and setting 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. 
 
Figuring out how often to change your air filters relies upon several factors: 

  • Which air filter your system requires 
  • The overall air quality of your Columbus area home 
  • Pets – Cats, dogs, birds, etc. 
  • Number of occupants in the house 
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home 

For the common 1″-3″ air filters, the manufacturer specs basically say to change them bi-monthly, which is in fact 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 frequently than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you’re in a remote area, own a less occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, annual replacement of your air filter may be quite sufficient. Why do pets matter so much? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter fast. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause diminished HVAC performance. 

In summary: 

  • Vacation 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 
  • More than one pet 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. But wait… there’s more, 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 any date you find most convenient. 

How to replace your return air filter 

Most of us know how to replace the air filter in their unit, but some residences have an additional filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on what your unit’s manufacturer recommends. Your system is made to handle a set amount of pressure in your home sweet home, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can reduce the life of your system if it isn’t designed for it. Discovering whether you have a return filter and replacing it is a piece of cake: 

  • Locate your return air vents. 
  • Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from the wall. 
  • Look for a filter. If one is there, 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 really 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 finer particles will restrict airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes greater pressure on your system, so you should verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may die off much faster than normal. 

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