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

February 26, 2015

Sometimes we’re asked what is the most important thing that Orlando area homeowner's can do to secure their air conditioning and heating system between their seasonal tune-ups? That’s an easy one; 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. Did you know indoor air pollution is among 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 all that hard for most Orlando homeowners, but there are usually two challenges to actually completing this job:

  1. Knowing just how often to swap out your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. Replacing them at the proper time.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a timeline printed on the packaging. It may say "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Look around at the store and you'll notice that some are designed to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have produced media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed 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 readers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to costly components, 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 scribbling 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 might have a different recommendation from your HVAC equipment manufacturer.

Deciding how often to change your air filters hinges on several factors:

  • The type of air filter you are using
  • The entire air quality of your Orlando area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home

For the common 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically tell you to change them bi-monthly, which is really a great rule of thumb. However, general rules aren't always for everybody. If you put up with 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 less populated area, own a seldom 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. Obviously, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause seriously reduced HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Infrequently occupied home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Typical suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
  • Add a dog or cat: Change every 60 days
  • Multiple pets or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days

How To Remember To Change Your Air Conditioner's Air Filters

Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning offers a simple solution; sign up for the Service Experts Email Club. This is a great to receive discounts on service, tips and other helpful information directly to your email. Plus, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Orlando 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 homes have another filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer's recommendation. Your unit is made to handle a certain amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can reduce the lifespan of your system if it isn't designed for it. Discovering whether you have a return filter and replacing it is a piece of cake:

  1. Go to your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from the wall.
  3. Look for a filter. If one is there, pull it out and note 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.
Amazing as it may seem, filters can really affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend checking in with the manufacturer. A more expensive HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier particles will reduce airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes more pressure on your system, so you ought to verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may die off much faster than the standard.
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