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

February 26, 2015

Sometimes we’re asked what is the number one thing that Jackson area homeowner's can do to secure their air conditioning and heating system between their seasonal tune-ups? The answer is simple this; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Changing furnace and return air filters is extremely important to the effectiveness 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? 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 Jackson homeowners, but there are often two hurdles to actually getting it done:

  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 read "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 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 tell our customers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can exacerbate or cause damage to pricey equipment, like your compressor, so it's better to change it out more often than to let it go. If you want to stick to 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 note that your filter manufacturer might have a different recommendation from your HVAC equipment manufacturer.

Determining how often to change your air filters relies upon several factors:

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

For the common 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturers basically suggest to change them every 30-60 days, which is actually a great rule of thumb. Still, general rules aren't always for everybody. If you put up with light to moderate allergies, you may need to upgrade the air filter or change them even more regularly 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 fast. Naturally, the air filter is just doing its job by capturing pet hair and dander, but extremely dirty filters can cause weak 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
  • 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

Comfortech Service Experts offers a simple solution; 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 Jackson 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 homes have an additional filter in the return ducts. 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 house, and the more filters you have the more 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 easy:

  1. Go to your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to pull off the wall.
  3. Check for a filter. If one is in place, pull it out and record 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.
Incredible though it may seem, filters can dramatically affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch smaller particles will obstruct 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 unit parts may die off much faster than normal.
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