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

February 26, 2015

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the number one thing that Shreveport area homeowner's can do to secure 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. Buying new furnace and return air filters is extremely important to the effectiveness of your HVAC system, not to mention your home's air quality. Did you know indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks? It’s not thought of often, but it is extremely important to consider. Changing the air filters is not difficult for most Shreveport homeowners, but there are often two hurdles to actually accomplishing this task:

  1. Knowing just how often to change your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. Remembering to change air filters when needed.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a recommended guideline 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 designed to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be exchanged once every 6-12 months. The industry standard seems to be once every three months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our readers to go by. If they're dirty, change them! A dirty air filter can contribute or cause damage to costly equipment, like your compressor, so it's best to change it out more often than not. If you want to follow 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. Keep in mind that your filter manufacturer sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC unit manufacturer.

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

  • Which air filter your system requires
  • The collective air quality of your Shreveport area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Number of occupants in the house
  • General air pollution in the Shreveport area or construction taking place nearby

For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically suggest to change them bi-monthly, which is actually a great rule of thumb. But general guidelines are not applicable to all. 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 less populated area, own a infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with few automobiles and trucks, changing your air filter every 12-months may be quite sufficient. Why do pets matter so much? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter in no time, just like a vacuum. Obviously, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but extremely 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

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. Plus, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Shreveport area home's air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or a specific date of your choice.

How to replace your return air filter

Most people know how to replace the air filter in their system, but some residences have an additional filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your unit is designed to handle a set amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the more the blower motor works, which can shorten the lifespan of your system if it isn't designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy:

  1. Find your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from 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.
Crazy as it may seem, filters can dramatically affect 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 increased pressure on your system, so you should verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may wear out much faster than normal.
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