Wondering if it might be time for an HVAC filter replacement? This guide outlines how to get the timing right and how to change the filter.

When was the last time you changed your HVAC system air filter? Was it part of the regular home maintenance or you were forced to change it after it clogged?

You don’t have to wait until your HVAC system becomes inefficient for you to change the air filter. It’s an easy and inexpensive task that’s not worth to be deferred.

How often should you change your air filter?

Well, this depends on several factors, but on average once in three months. This regular home maintenance practice can mean the difference between costly repairs and optimum comfort.

Here’s a guide to HVAC Filter Replacement

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Each type of HVAC system needs an air filter to block larger airborne particles from entering the system.

Do you know what happens when these particles enter the system?

These particles will clog the filter leading to a pressure drop. A low-pressure means reduced airflow or a ‘blow out’.

A blowout means no air infiltrates your system at all. This condition will force your system to work extremely hard to keep your home cool or warm.

Since HVAC is a combined system, any mechanical component that is straining to run efficiently stresses the whole system, which is likely to lead to a premature breakdown, resulting in costly repair or replacement.

Do you know that a dirty filter is a serious health hazard? Once a dirty filter is exposed to condensation, it can become damp hence encouraging mold growth. This mold will be spread throughout your home by the HVAC system leading to serious health consequences.

Types of Filters

Most HVAC filters are made of biodegradable paper and hence disposable. The filters are shaped in cells, with fins or screens meant to trap as many airborne particles as possible.

It’s economical to buy the filters in multi-pack but you need to ensure you buy the right filter. Do you what happens when you fit your HVAC with the wrong filter? You’ll end up having the same problems as having a clogged filter.

How will you know the right filter to buy? Your system might be having affixed a label with guidelines for filter replacement. If it doesn’t have this label, then consult your HVAC installer.

How Often Should You Replace Your Air Filters

You should change your HVAC air filter at least once every three months. However, in some situations, it’s recommended to change it once a month.

What are the factors that determine how often you should change air filters?

  1. Size of Your Family

    If you have a large family, change your air filter once a month. A large family means more household debris, dirt, and dust.

    However, if you live alone, you don’t smoke or burn scented candles, and you can change your filter once every three months.

    But, if any of these factors change, you’ll need to replace them every month.

  2. Do You Have Pets?

    Pets’ hair and dander are airborne and can easily be circulated throughout your home’s HVAC unit.

    If you have more than one pet in your home, you’ll have to change your air filter every month.

  3. Type of Air Filter

    The price of the air filter is determined by its quality. Low-quality filters are often cheap but you’ll have to replace them more often.

    Apart from price, what are the other indicators of quality? Look at the material of the filter. Is it made of washable fabric, pleated fabric, or fiberglass?

    Before buying an air filter, consider its Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. MRV ranges from 1 to 20. A higher rating means better quality.

Which is the best quality filter?

  1. High-Efficiency Particulate Air Filters

    Have you heard about High-Efficiency Particulate Air Filters (HEPA)? This is the best air filter. It removes nearly 100 % of particles from your home.

    They have a MERV rating of 17-20.

    As convenient as those sounds, you’ll be needed to install a separate filtration system to supply the air filter with adequate pressure.

  2. High-Efficiency Air Filter

    Do you want to inhale as much purified air in your living space as possible? Use high-efficiency air filters. They have a MERV rating of 14-16.

    They are high-quality air filters that remove more than 80 % of particles from your home’s air.

  3. Pleated Air Filters.

    The quality of a pleated air filter is determined by the number of pleats per foot. An air filter with more pleats is deemed to be of a higher quality.

  4. Pleated air filters have a 10-13 MERV rating. This MERV rating shows that a pleated filter is a better option when compared to a fiberglass filter.

  5. Fiberglass Air Filter

    They have a MERV rating of 1-4. You can purchase them for less than a dollar apiece.

    There are low-quality air filters and you have to change them more frequently than other air filters.

  6. Where Do You Live?

    This factor determines the quality of air in your living space. If you live in any of these areas: a windy area, a ranch, a polluted city, or around an area with ongoing construction, you’ll have to change your filter once a month.

  7. Do You Have Any Form of Allergy?

    Although air filters are designed to trap allergens floating in your space, they aren’t that helpful when it comes to dust mites.

    If you don’t suffer from any form of allergy, you can rest easy. However, if you are an allergy sufferer, you’ll need to change your filter once a month.

  8. How long does your unit run?

    Does your unit run for more than 6 months a year? You’ll need to replace your filter often if your unit runs almost year-round.

When Should You Replace Your Filter Immediately?

If your filter is damaged, you have to change it immediately. How do you tell a filter is damaged? If the cells have collapsed or the fins are bent, that filter is damaged.

A damaged filter is likely to allow the system to bypass it at any point.

If your filter is damp, it can quickly become moldy.

A moldy filter spreads mold spores throughout your HVAC system. This filter is a health hazard and you need to change it immediately.

Do you Monitor Your Air Filter?

How do you know it’s time to change your air filter? You can install a differential pressure measurement device across the filter bank to determine the best change-out times.

You can use a pressure drop switch to send a signal to your home’s automation system to alert you to change the filter.

However, if your home doesn’t have an automation system, then you can just rely on visual inspection of the air filters. However, your naked eyes are only limited to seeing the debris of about 40 microns.

How to Replace Your Air Filter

To keep your HVAC system operating at peak efficiency, you’ll need to change its air filter regularly.

Fortunately, replacing the air filter is a very simple task if you know the right thing to do. However, there are ways to botch this simple task, for instance by purchasing the wrong filter.

Here’s how to replace the filter properly in 3 simple steps:

Step 1. Turn Off the Unit

The first step is turning off your unit. Remove the air filter, which is located inside the unit or the return vent. How will you tell you to have the right air vent? There are arrows on the filter that indicate the direction of airflow.

You can also use a permanent marker to draw the direction of airflow on the outside of the unit. This will help you always know the correct way to install the filter.

Step 2: Ensure You Have the Right Replacement

Before buying an HVAC filter, make sure it’s the right replacement. How will you tell it’s the right fit? Most likely, your filter will have dimensions on one of its sides.

Check out the MERV rating on the air filter and also ensure it’s the right-sized model.

A right-sized model is effective at removing pollen, smoke, and dust from the air that passes through it.

If you aren’t sure what type of filter will meet your needs, note down your unit’s brand and model and ask for help from your home warranty contractor or local hardware.

Step 3: Installation

Do you know where your unit’s filter is located? Its location will depend on the model of the HVAC system. However, in most cases, the air filter is found in between the ductwork that brings air in and the unit body.

Some HVAC models have their air filters at the bottom of the furnace. To access this filter, you will have to remove the front access panels.

Which side of the air filter should face the unit? Look for the markings for guidance. Remove the old filter and slide a new one.

Note down the date to remind you when it’s time to change the filter once more.

Ensure You Find the Right Fit for Your HVAC Filter Replacement

HVAC filter replacement is a big step towards improving your home’s air quality. Before replacing the filter, ensure the replacement filter is the right size and compatible with your HVAC unit.

You also need to review the performance of the replacement filter to make sure the pressure drop across the new filter is not too big, particularly when the filter loads.

Contact us today for all your HVAC replacement and repair needs.


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