Every once in a while we’re asked what is the number one thing that Waldorf area homeowner's can do to protect 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. Changing furnace and return air filters is critical to the effectiveness of your HVAC system, not to mention your home's air quality. Research suggests 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 all that hard for most Waldorf homeowners, but there are typically two hurdles to actually accomplishing this task:
- Knowing just how often to swap out your furnace or air conditioner filter.
- Remembering to change air filters when needed.
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 should see that some are designed to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed 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 customers to go by. If it's dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to expensive components, like your compressor, so it's better to change it out more often than neglect it. 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 adding 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 hinges on several factors:
- Type of filter your A/C system requires
- The entire air quality of your Waldorf area home
- Pets – Cats, dogs, birds, etc.
- Number of people in the home
- General air pollution in the Waldorf area or construction taking place nearby
For your standard 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturers basically suggest 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 suffer from 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 we call out our beloved pets? 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 trapping pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause weak HVAC performance.
- Vacation 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 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 Waldorf 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 unit, but some houses have an additional filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your HVAC is made to handle a set amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can reduce the life expectancy of your system if it isn't designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy:
- Locate your return air vents.
- Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from 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 filter is dirty, replace with the manufacturer's recommended filter of the same size and type.
Crazy as it may seem, filters can really affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend referring to the manufacturer. A higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch smaller particles will reduce airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes more pressure on your system, so you need to verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may wear out much faster than the standard.