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

February 26, 2015

Sometimes we’re asked what is the best thing that Sharonville area homeowner's can do to ensure efficient functionality of their air conditioning and heating system between their regular 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. Did you know indoor air pollution is among 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 all that hard for most Sharonville homeowners, but there are usually two challenges to actually completing this job:

  1. Understanding just how often to change 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 box or plastic. 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 a single month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The standard seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our customers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to expensive components, like your compressor, so it's best to change it out more often than not. 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 adding 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 unit manufacturer.

Choosing how often to change your air filters can depend on several factors:

  • The type of air filter you are using
  • The entire air quality of your Sharonville 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 the common 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturers basically tell you to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is really a great rule of thumb. But general rules aren't always for everybody. If you suffer from light to moderate allergies, you may need to upgrade the air filter or change them even more frequently than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a low population area, own a infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, 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 capturing pet hair and dander, but extremely dirty filters can cause seriously reduced HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Seldom used home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Average suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
  • Got a cat or dog: 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

Knochelmann 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. In addition, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Sharonville area home's air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or any date you find most convenient.

How to replace your return air filter

Most of us know how to replace the air filter in their system, but some residences have another filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on what your unit's manufacturer recommends. Your HVAC is made to handle a maximum amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the more the blower motor works, which can shorten the life of your system if it isn't designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is a piece of cake:

  1. Locate your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to take off the wall.
  3. Check 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 greatly alter your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer particles will restrict airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes increased pressure on your system, so you need to verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may break down much faster than the standard.
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