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How Often Should I Change My Furnace Filter?

furnace filterSometimes, the simplest home maintenance chores are the easiest ones to forget. But don’t let changing your furnace filter be one of them. It’s a simple, inexpensive task that keeps your furnace running smoothly, plays an important part in the air quality of your home, and can prevent expensive repairs.

HVAC professionals recommend checking your filter monthly and changing it as soon as it’s dirty or clogged. A good way to check is to hold the filter up to the light. If you can’t clearly see light through the filter, it’s time to replace it. At the very minimum, professionals recommend you change the filter every three months. Here’s why you’ll want to stay on top of this particular household chore.

Heating and Cooling Efficiency

The air filter in your furnace is actually a critical part of your HVAC system. It contributes to keeping your unit operating efficiently and effectively. It protects important motor parts from getting dirty or clogged and reduces the chance of particle buildup that can lead to problems and costly repairs. Not only can this become a comfort issue if you’re not getting the appropriate heating or cooling from your system, but it can increase energy usage, which will show up on your monthly utility bill.

Avoid Unnecessary Repair Costs

When your filter gets dirty, it restricts airflow through the furnace. Over time, this can result in overheating and eventual shutdown. And that can lead to costly repairs that could have easily been avoided. Likewise, your air conditioning can also be compromised by a dirty filter. When the airflow is restricted, the coils can freeze and cause a shutdown. Again, this is a problem that can easily — and inexpensively — be avoided with regular filter maintenance. Quite simply, keeping your furnace filter clean will help extend the life of your HVAC system.

Clean, Healthy Air

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, your furnace filter keeps dirt, dust, and allergens out of your breathing air. It literally filters these contaminants from outside air, preventing them from becoming part of your indoor air. A dirty filter can contribute to health issues including eye irritation, respiratory problems, and flare-ups of allergies. If you or any family members have health concerns that require even cleaner air, you may want to consider investing in an electronic air cleaner.

Choosing the Right Filter

So what’s the best filter for your HVAC system? Start by consulting your furnace manual or your HVAC professional. Either will recommend the standard filter for your unit. However, once you start shopping for replacements, you’ll find that there are many choices out there. There are:

  • Disposable filters, which are perhaps the most common and often, the least expensive.
  • Re-usable filters, which tend to be more expensive, more effective, but require that you manually clean them on a regular basis.
  • Higher MERV-rated or high-efficiency filters, which filter increasingly smaller particles, but are more expensive and may not be recommended for all systems. It’s best to consult with your HVAC professional if you’re considering one of these.
  • Electrostatic filters, which can remove very small particles very economically.

Choosing the best filter for your unit may take a little research, but in the end, you’ll be glad you invested the time and effort. It will help keep your system running at top efficiency, save on repair costs, and keep your home environment comfortable and enjoyable.

Keep Your Filter Clean Year-Round

It’s pretty obvious that your filter needs attention during the heating season. But it’s also important to keep an eye on it even in the spring and summer months. It’s a time when open doors and windows let in fresh air, but also let in dust and dirt. When the furnace blower is running, that dust and dirt get collected in your filter. If it’s not changed regularly, it can restrict proper airflow that’s needed to run your air conditioning efficiently and safely. So, plan on following the once-a-month inspection and replacement plan the whole year.

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