Every once in a while we’re asked what is the best thing that Gainesville area homeowner's can do to maintain their air conditioning and heating system between their scheduled tune-ups? The answer is simple this; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Changing furnace and return air filters is critical to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, plus your home's air quality. Did you know 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 all that hard for most Gainesville homeowners, but there are often two challenges to actually completing this job:
- Understanding just how often to change your furnace or air conditioner filter.
- Replacing them at the proper time.
When To Change Your Air Filters
Most filters have a timeline printed on the packaging. It may instruct "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Check out the filters at the store and you'll see that some are engineered to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have produced media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The standard seems to be once every few months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our friends and family to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can exacerbate or cause damage to expensive components, like your compressor, so it's better to change it out more often than to let it go. If you want to listen 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 be aware that your filter manufacturer sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC system 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 Gainesville area home
- Pets – Cats, dogs, birds, etc.
- Number of occupants in the house
- General air pollution in the Gainesville area or construction taking place nearby
For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically suggest to change them every 30-60 days, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. But generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. If you suffer from light to moderate allergies, you might require an upgraded air filter or change them even more often than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a remote 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 quick. Obviously, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping pet hair and dander, but exceptionally dirty filters can cause diminished HVAC performance.
- Seldom used 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
Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning 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. Also, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Gainesville 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 an additional filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer's recommendation. Your HVAC is designed to handle a set amount of pressure in your home sweet home, and the more filters you have the more the blower motor works, which can decrease the life expectancy of your system if it isn't designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple:
- Locate 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 in place, pull it out and write down 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 greatly alter your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer dust will restrict airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes greater pressure on your system, so you ought to verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may wear out much faster than normal.