You probably already know that changing your home air filters is important both for your own health and for the efficiency of your HVAC system.
Most modern air conditioners and furnaces have user-replaceable air filters that can be conveniently accessed. Not everyone knows how often or even how to replace home air filters, which is why the HVAC professionals at Front Range HVAC are here to help with this handy guide.
By keeping to a regular schedule of changing out your home air filter, you’ll be ensuring that your HVAC system performs optimally and that you’ll be breathing cleaner, fresher air every day.
Furnace Air Filters
Any appliance that moves air is going to eventually suffer from build-up of airborne particulate matter. This is why you’ll often find accumulations of dust, dander, dirt, and other material on fan blades and within air ducts.
Just about every furnace that is a part of residential or commercial HVAC system uses a motor to run a blower that forces air throughout the building. Without forced air, the furnace would only be heating the air around it, not distributing it to all of the various places it needs to go (especially in the winter!).
This blower/motor combination relies on air intake that it gets from the vicinity of the unit. Some furnaces have air intakes that are ported to the exterior of the building, however this isn’t common in residential buildings. After all, it’s easier for the furnace to warm air that is already somewhat warmer than the air outside.
Here’s what happens when a furnace’s air filter becomes clogged up with accumulated particulate matter:
- The motor starts to struggle. This happens almost immediately once a furnace air filter becomes excessively dirty. When a dirty air filter interrupts the air intake, the motor attached to the blower isn’t ‘smart’ enough to know what’s going on, and it keeps running regardless of the added air resistance.
Over time, this can cause the motor to fail, resulting in costly repairs.
- Air distribution efficiency drops. When less air gets into the furnace because of a dirty air filter, less warm air is distributed on the whole. The result? A poorly functioning furnace that doesn’t do its job.
- Heating bills start to go up. This is especially common in the winter, when Colorado furnaces are working overtime. Using a furnace with a dirty air filter for multiple hours out of the day will invariably cost more every month.
To address these issues, it’s important to check the filter in your furnace at least every 2-3 months, paying extra attention during the colder months when the furnace is operating more frequently.
Air Conditioning Filters
Similar to furnaces, air conditioning units require forced air to function. However, with an air conditioner, the forced air is sent through a series of cooling coils prior to making its way to the rest of the building.
As with furnaces, the motor that is attached to the blower is going to have to work harder than normal when there’s a clogged air filter. What’s more, any dirt or dust that isn’t caught by the filter must be sent through the cooling coils and out to the network of ducts.
Therefore, dirty air conditioning filters can wind up being especially harmful to the overall cooling system.
Check the filter in your air conditioner at least once every month or so, and replace it if it is dirty, damaged, or outdated.
Using the Right Filter
Just about all HVAC filters have their dimensions listed on them somewhere. Look along the border of your air filter, and you’re likely to find the measurements of the filter printed on it.
It can be helpful to take a picture of the filter or bring it with you to the hardware store just to make sure you get a fitting replacement.
Remember that not all air filters are created equal! Shop for the air filter that removes the most amount of particulate matter while staying within a reasonable budget (most air filters cost between $5 and $20 each).
When disposing of your old air filter, take care not to inhale any of the dust that might become unsettled during the swap.
Here’s another tip: when buying a replacement air filter, go ahead and get an extra or two and place it in the same area as your HVAC unit. This will save you a trip to the hardware store when the time comes to replace the filter again.
For more information on changing your air filter and keeping your ducts clean, contact Front Range HVAC today.