Looking for the short answer? Read our FAQ on "How often to change the air filter".
Occassionally we’re asked what is the most important thing that Atlanta area homeowner's can do to ensure efficient functionality of their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? The answer is simple this; 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 in 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 Atlanta homeowners, but there are often two obstacles to actually completing this job:
- Determining just how often to replace your furnace or air conditioner filter.
- Remembering to change air filters when needed.
When To Change Your Air Filters
Most filters have a recommended guideline on the wrapping. It may read "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Look around at the store and you'll notice that some are engineered to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The norm seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we suggest 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 recommended to change it out more often than not. 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 programming 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 unit manufacturer.
Figuring out how often to change your air filters relies upon several factors:
- Which air filter your system requires
- The overall air quality of your Atlanta area home
- Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
- Number of people in the home
- How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home
For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically suggest to change them every 30-60 days, which is really a great rule of thumb. Still, general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you have to tolerate light to moderate allergies, you might require an upgraded air filter or change them even more regularly than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a less populated area, own a less occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, annual replacement of your air filter may be quite sufficient. Why do pets matter so much? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter quick. Of course, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause seriously reduced HVAC performance.
- Vacation home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
- Common 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
It's simple; sign up for the Service Experts Email Club. This is a convenient way to get money-saving discounts and other helpful information on your smartphone, tablet or desktop. Also, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Atlanta 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 unit, but some residences have an extra filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer's recommendation. Your HVAC is designed to handle a maximum amount of pressure in your home sweet home, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can shorten 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:
- 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 filter is dirty, replace with the manufacturer's recommended filter of the same size and type.
Incredible though it may seem, filters can greatly impact your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer particles will reduce airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes increased 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 otherwise.