When Should I Change My Furnace's Air Filter?

February 26, 2015

Sometimes we’re asked what is the number one thing that Salt Lake City area homeowner's can do to secure their air conditioning and heating system between their scheduled PLUS Maintenance Tune-ups? It's a simple question with a simple answer; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Buying new furnace and return air filters is critical to the effectiveness of your HVAC system, in addition to your home's air quality. Research suggests that indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks? You probably don’t consider it as you sit and watch TV, but this is the air you breathe day and night. Changing the air filters is not a tough thing to do for most Salt Lake City homeowners, but there are often two obstacles to actually getting it done:

  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 say "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Check out the filters at the store and you should see that some are meant to only last a single month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed once every 6-12 months. The norm seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we tell our readers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! 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 neglect it. If you want to follow the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest marking the date on the filter when you swap it out, and adding a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also note that your filter manufacturer may have a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer.

Figuring out how often to change your air filters relies upon several factors:

  • Type of filter your A/C system requires
  • The collective air quality of your Salt Lake City area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • General air pollution in the Salt Lake City area or construction taking place nearby

For your standard 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically say to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is actually a great rule of thumb. Still, generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. If you suffer from light to moderate allergies, you might need to upgrade your air filter or change them even more frequently than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a low population area, own a seldom occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with few automobiles and trucks, annual replacement of your air filter may be quite sufficient. Why do we call out our beloved pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter quick. Naturally, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause seriously reduced HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Seldom used home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Average suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
  • Got a cat or dog: Change every 60 days
  • Several pets or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days

How To Remember To Change Air Filters

Mountainwest Service Experts offers a simple solution; 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. In addition, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Salt Lake City area home's air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or the date of your choosing.

How to replace your return air filter

Most people know how to replace the air filter in their unit, but some houses have an additional filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer's recommendation. Your system is engineered to handle a certain amount of pressure in your home, and the more filters you have the fiercer 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 simple:

  1. Locate 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 in place, pull it out and write down 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.
Incredible though it may seem, filters can greatly alter your home's airflow, which is why we recommend checking in with the manufacturer. A higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer particles will restrict airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes more pressure on your system, so you need to verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may break down much faster than the standard.

 

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