When Should I Change My Air Conditioner's Air Filter at Home?

February 26, 2015

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the most important thing that Ocala area homeowner's can do to secure their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? The answer is simple this; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing 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? It’s not thought of often, but it is extremely important to consider. Changing the air filters is not all that hard for most Ocala homeowners, but there are usually two obstacles to actually accomplishing this task:

  1. Understanding just how often to swap out your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. Replacing them at the proper time.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a printed "expiration" date on the packaging. It may instruct "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 one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be exchanged once every 6-12 months. The norm seems to be once every few months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we tell our readers to go by. If it's dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can exacerbate or cause damage to pricey parts, like your compressor, so it's recommended to change it out more often than neglect it. If you want to follow the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest scribbling the date on the filter when you swap it out, and adding a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also be aware that your filter manufacturer might have a different recommendation from your HVAC unit manufacturer.

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

  • Type of filter your A/C system requires
  • The overall air quality of your Ocala area home
  • Pets – Cats, dogs, birds, etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home

For your standard 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically say to change them every 30-60 days, which is really a great rule of thumb. Still, general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you put up with light to moderate allergies, you might need to upgrade your air filter or change them even more often than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a remote area, own a infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area where there are fewer cars around, changing your air filter every 12-months 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. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by capturing pet hair and dander, but extremely dirty filters can cause diminished HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Vacation home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Typical suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
  • Got a cat or dog: Change every 60 days
  • More than one pet or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days

How To Remember To Change Your Air Conditioner's Air Filters

It's simple; sign up for the Service Experts Email Club. When you do, you can elect to receive (or not) great email coupons and newsletters with a lot of tips and discounts on AC repairs and tune-ups. Plus, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Ocala area home's air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or any date you find most convenient.

How to replace your return air filter

Most of you know how to replace the air filter in their unit, but some homes have another filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on what your unit's manufacturer recommends. Your HVAC is designed 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 life of your system if it isn't designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple:

  1. Go to your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from the wall.
  3. Look for a filter. If one is in place, pull it out and note 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 dramatically alter your home's airflow, which is why we recommend checking in with the manufacturer. A more expensive HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier dust will restrict airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes increased pressure on your system, so you should verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may break down much faster than the standard.
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