Of all the things you can do to improve your indoor air quality and get the most out of your furnace, air conditioner, or ventilation unit, performing routine air filtration maintenance is hands-down the most important.
At Front Range HVAC, we’re asked all the time, “What can I do to help my family breathe easier?”, or “How can I optimize the operation of my commercial HVAC system?”. The answer to both of these questions is air filtration maintenance.
Because this is such a simple yet critical aspect of overall building maintenance, we’re dedicating this blog post to everything you need to know about what filtration equipment to maintain, how often, and why.
How Air Filters Work
In order to gain a solid grasp of the importance of changing air filters, it might help to know a bit more about how exactly air filters are used to remove harmful contaminants from indoor air.
Air filters are typically composed of finely spun strands of fiberglass. Alternatively, some air filters use pleated paper or fabric membranes that are specifically manufactured for this purpose. The material that is used to collect airborne substances is sometimes called ‘media’.
Air filtration media differs from water or oil filtration media—those types of filters use substances like sand, gravel, or activated charcoal to keep bad stuff out.
After intake air is pulled through the air filter (typically using vacuum pressure from an integrated fan or blower), it is conditioned by the furnace or AC before being distributed to the indoor air space.
While the air is being circulated indoors, it’s going to grow increasingly dirtier until it makes its way back to the AC or furnace through return vents. Contamination of the air around us is unavoidable, as we all live in environments that contain billions of pathogens, particles of dirt, and other organic substances.
Some of the most common airborne particles that are screened out by many air filters include:
- Mold spores
- Fabric fibers and lint
- Animal hair and dander
- Microscopic wood, plaster, or metal fragments
As you can see, modern air filters have a lot of responsibility. Thankfully, most air filter manufacturers do a great job producing air filtration products that are effective, long-lasting, and affordable.
The key to optimizing air filter efficiency lies in ongoing maintenance.
The Importance of Changing Air Filters
Regardless what membrane type is being used to collect materials from the air passing through it, air filters will inevitably accumulate too much dirt, dust, and other gunk before they simply stop being effective.
When this happens, most HVAC systems will begin exhibiting symptoms like:
- Reduced cooling or heating capacity
- Increased workload placed onto internal components
- Foul or stagnant smells
- Lower air pressure throughout the ducting system
- Increased energy bills due to an overworked system
It’s tempting to think of air filter maintenance as being ‘good to do, but not necessary’. In other words, many people think that it’s ok to let their air filters go unchanged for sometimes years at a time.
However, air filters are, on the whole, very cheap and very available. Virtually all hardware stores stock inventories of the most common furnace and AC air filters. Alternatively, you can always look to the internet as a source for obtaining the air filters you need.
Air Filtration Tips
For both home and business owners, staying on top of air filtration system maintenance can be made easy with few tips:
- Always buy an extra two or three air filters, and store them somewhere near the HVAC unit (Caution: be sure not to store air filters on or near furnaces). Having extra filters handy will make it faster and easier to swap old ones out in the future.
- Spring for the higher-quality filters, if you can afford it. Not all air filters are created equal. There is something called a MERV Rating—an efficiency rating especially for air filters. This rating runs from 1 to 16, with a higher number representing a more efficient air filter. Look for air filters that have a higher MERV rating. Using them will yield better results, especially for those who are susceptible to allergies.
- Consider hiring an HVAC contractor like Front Range HVAC to perform a ‘whole-home’ filter change and comprehensive maintenance service. In many cases, HVAC technicians are able to locate other areas of inefficiencies within an HVAC system and can make recommendations that will improve overall system operation.
Have a burning question about air filters? We want to hear from you! Contact Front Range HVAC today.