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

Sometimes we’re asked what is the best thing that the U.S. area homeowner’s can do to maintain their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? That’s an easy one; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is critical to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, not to mention your home’s air quality. Studies show that indoor air pollution is among 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 a tough thing to do for most the U.S. homeowners, but there are typically two obstacles to actually getting it done: 

  1. Knowing just how often to swap out 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 instruct “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 created media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The norm seems to be once every three months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our readers to go by. If it’s dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can exacerbate or cause damage to costly equipment, like your compressor, so it’s best to change it out more often than neglect it. If you want to follow the manufacturer’s recommended limit, we suggest marking 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. 
 
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 the U.S. area home 
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc. 
  • Number of occupants in the house 
  • General air pollution in the the U.S. area or construction taking place nearby 

For your standard 1″-3″ air filters, the manufacturers basically suggest to change them bi-monthly, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. However, general rules aren’t always for everybody. 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 few automobiles and trucks, replacing your air filters each year 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. Of course, the air filter is just doing its job by capturing pet hair and dander, but exceptionally dirty filters can cause seriously reduced HVAC performance. 

In summary: 

  • Seldom used home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months 
  • Typical suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days 
  • House with a pet: 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 

Here’s an easy way to stay on top of this; 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. But wait… there’s more, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your the U.S. 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 you know how to replace the air filter in their system, but some houses have an extra filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your system is made to handle a set amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can reduce the life expectancy 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: 

  • Find your return air vents. 
  • Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to take off the wall. 
  • Inspect for a filter. If one is inside, pull it out and record 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. 

Incredible though it may seem, filters can dramatically impact your home’s airflow, which is why we recommend checking in with the manufacturer. A higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer dust 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 made to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may die off much faster than normal. 

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