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

Sometimes we’re asked what is the most important thing that Columbus area homeowner’s can do to maintain their air conditioning and heating system between their scheduled tune-ups? It’s a simple question with a simple answer; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is critical to the proper performance 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? We know it’s the last thing on your mind, but this is really important stuff. Changing the air filters is not a tough thing to do for most Columbus homeowners, but there are often two challenges to actually getting it done: 

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

When To Change Your Air Filters 

Most filters have a timeline printed on the box or plastic. 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 designed to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have produced media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The industry standard seems to be once every 3 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 contribute or cause damage to pricey components, like your compressor, so it’s best to change it out more often than to let it go. If you want to stick to the manufacturer’s recommended limit, we suggest scribbling the date on the filter when you swap it out, and adding a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also note that your filter manufacturer sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer. 
 
Deciding 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 Columbus area home 
  • Pets – Cats, dogs, birds, etc. 
  • Number of occupants in the house 
  • 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 30-60 days, which is really a great rule of thumb. However, general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you suffer from light to moderate allergies, you might need to upgrade your air filter or change them even more frequently than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you’re in a low population area, own a infrequently 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 do pets matter so much? 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 extremely dirty filters can cause diminished HVAC performance. 

In summary: 

  • Seldom used 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 
  • Several pets 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. In addition, 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 the date of your choosing. 

How to replace your return air filter 

Most of us know how to replace the air filter in their equipment, but some residences have an extra filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your unit is designed to handle a set amount of pressure in your house, 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 simple: 

  • Locate 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 in place, 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 smaller debris will obstruct airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes greater pressure on your system, so you ought to verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may die off much faster than the standard. 

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