As students gear up to head back to classes, many homes are inundated with the proverbial To-Do Lists. Don’t let your school year start without thinking about your family’s air filtration system. The benefits of changing your air filter are too numerous to count, and it just might be the perfect thing to add to your back-to-school checklist.
How Often Should I Change My Air Filter?
Up to half of your electric bill is utilized for cooling and heating your home. Ensuring that your air filter is regularly changed will, in turn, ensure many benefits, which we discuss below. It is recommended to change your air filter at a maximum of every three months but inspecting your filter monthly can ensure proper airflow and keep your HVAC from having problems down the road.
Four Good Reasons to Change Your Home’s Filter
Changing your air filter will keep you cool during the summer, warm during the winter, and ensure your system is running as efficiently as possible – reducing overconsumption of energy. Here are four good reasons to keep your air filter changed:
1. A clean filter prevents dust and dirt from circulating in the home, creating recirculation of dirt and animal dander if you have pets. Air filters are not designed to continually screen air, as the accumulation of dust adds up. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) notes that dirt, dander, and mold accumulated on filters lead to indoor air pollution, which is responsible for common ailments such as sinus congestion and increased allergy problems. In East Tennessee, we know a little bit about allergies. So how do you keep your air filter clean? Some air filters need to be replaced, while some systems have filters that can be removed and cleaned. Washable electrostatic air filters can be expensive initially, but if you consider purchasing one of these air filters, it is possible that your filter may last longer than your HVAC unit. As with anything, there are pros and cons to these types of HVAC filters, so be sure to do your research. Once you have chosen the type of filter you want, your family will breathe easier knowing your home’s air is pollutant-free.
2. An HVAC unit can freeze if left clogged. Layers upon layers of dust piling up on a filter can lead to dust being pushed into ductwork and creating clogs or cycling dust back into the home. A build up on a filter causes the inside of an air conditioner to also accumulate build up creating a lower internal temperature. As a result, the system can freeze up, specifically on the coils of a unit. Even if the coils do not freeze due to restriction of airflow, the air conditioner will not cool or heat well, reducing the overall comfort in your home. The coils in your HVAC that could freeze are the evaporator coils, and they are typically cold to the touch. However, they should never be so cold that they produce ice. If ice has formed on your unit, be sure to turn off the AC to minimize additional damage, switch the unit to ‘fan only,’ and then reach out to a professional for further assistance.
3. An inefficient HVAC equals pricey electric bills. When an air filter is blocked with dirt and debris, your HVAC system begins to slow, and your entire system is forced to work much harder. The unit starts to pump out more air in an attempt to move blockages. As the system runs harder and more frequently, your electric bill increases. Dirt works as an insulator which causes the heat transfer of airflow through the unit to be disrupted. The optimum situation is to change your air filter regularly to avoid high electric bills as a result of a blockage.
4. Over time, an HVAC unit left unmaintained will eventually quit. As a result of these problems associated with a clogged air filter, the lifespan of an HVAC unit can be
shortened significantly. Systems should run 15-25 years when properly maintained and serviced. Considering that the cost of a replacement air filter is much less than an HVAC system – or even replacing parts of an HVAC system – it is wise to keep your air filter clean.
How to Easily Change Your Air Filter
Have we given you enough information to want to regularly update your air filter? Good. In fact, writing this alone has reminded us to check our filters in our office! If you have never changed your air filter, or have recently moved, we can tell you how to replace your filter:
1. Where is my air filter located? In some AC systems, air filters are found in the return air ducts. In heating units, the filter can be found near the air circulation for the furnace. In order to locate the filter, you will have to determine which duct houses the filter. The container for the filter may be a metal panel and can easily be removed with a screwdriver, or the access to filter may be open already. Check ceiling or wall returns, basements, crawlspaces, attics, and garages for the location of your HVAC air handler. Be sure to inspect the bottom, top, or side of the unit as the filter may be located in any of these areas, or in a filter-housing slot on the unit. If you’re having trouble locating the filter, be sure to reach out to a professional HVAC technician.
2. What type of filter should I purchase? As with anything, there are a lot of air filters on the market. You might be tempted to purchase a cheap filter online, but remember the old saying is you get what you pay for. These filters will break down quicker and filter less material. If you or a loved one suffers from respiratory conditions or allergies or you just want your home to be safer for all, this type of cheap filter may not be enough. Consider instead a mechanical air filter that uses synthetic fibers to trap the debris and is rated effective by a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating. The lower the value of the filter the lower the MERV rating, with the higher rating equaling a better air filter. Pleated air filters cost around $10 each, have a MERV rating of 10-13, and filter 45% of pollutants. If you’re looking to increase the quality of the air in your home, you will want to opt for a high-efficiency filter, which start at a MERV rating of 14-16 and filter 85% of pollutants. In order to filter 98% of the allergens and pollutants in your home, consider a true HEPA filter for the best result.
3. How do I change my air filter? If you haven’t changed your air filter in a while, be ready for buildup and a pretty gross experience removing the filter. When you prepare to remove the filter, always turn off the power. This will ensure your safety, but will also keep additional dust from getting sucked into the unit. Gently grasp the sides of the filter and pull slowly out of the system. When you see the old filter, you can judge how dirty the filter is. If you cannot see through the filter, then the filter needs replacing or cleaned. If you have a replaceable filter, you can dispose of the filter in your garbage. Reusable filters will need to be cleaned according to the guidelines set forth by the manufacturer, which should have come with the filters, or these instructions can be found online. Once the filter is clean, or you have your new filter ready, gently slide the
filter back in, careful not to bend any part of the filter. Your filter will have an arrow on it, which needs to point away from the return air duct when inserted. After the filter has been replaced, be sure to close any additional panels, and wash your hands to remove dust or debris from the process.
HVAC and Air Filtration Experts in East Tennessee
Changing an air filter can be a simple task but if you have never done it before, recently purchased a reusable filter, or moved into a new home, we can help! Located in Knoxville, Tennessee, our HVAC technicians have been helping customers with their heating and cooling needs for over 50 years. Contact us on our website or call us today (865-938-0102) to schedule a qualified technician to visit your home.