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 best thing that East Syracuse area homeowner's can do to maintain their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? Our advice is simple; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Buying new furnace and return air filters is extremely important to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, not to mention your home's air quality. Studies show 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 difficult for most East Syracuse homeowners, but there are typically two challenges to actually accomplishing this task:

  1. Determining 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 packaging. It may instruct "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Look around at the store and you'll notice that some are designed to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed once every 6-12 months. The industry standard seems to be once every three months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our friends and family to go by. If it's dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to costly parts, like your compressor, so it's better to change it out more often than neglect it. If you want to listen to the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest scribbling the date on the filter when you swap it out, and programming a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Keep in mind that your filter manufacturer sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC unit manufacturer.

Deciding how often to change your air filters hinges on several factors:

  • The type of air filter you are using
  • The overall air quality of your East Syracuse area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Number of people in the home
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home

For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically suggest to change them bi-monthly, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. Still, general rules aren't always for everybody. If you suffer from 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 less occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, 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 fast. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by trapping pet hair and dander, but exceptionally dirty filters can cause diminished HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Vacation home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Average suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
  • Add a dog or cat: 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

Here’s an easy way to stay on top of this; sign up for the Service Experts Email Club. This is a great to receive discounts on service, tips and other helpful information directly to your email. Also, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your East Syracuse area home's air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or a specific date of your choice.

How to replace your return air filter

Most people know how to replace the air filter in their equipment, but some houses have an additional filter in the return vent. 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 harder the blower motor works, which can decrease the life expectancy of your system if it isn't designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy:

  1. Find your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from the wall.
  3. Inspect 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 really impact your home's airflow, which is why we recommend checking in with the manufacturer. A higher quality 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 ought to verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may wear out much faster than otherwise.
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