Sometimes we’re asked what is the number one thing that Austin area homeowner's can do to maintain their air conditioning and heating system between their seasonal tune-ups? Our advice is simple; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is crucial to the proper performance of your HVAC system, as well as your home's air quality. Did you know indoor air pollution is in 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 Austin homeowners, but there are often two challenges to actually completing this job:
- Understanding just how often to change your furnace or air conditioner filter.
- Replacing them at the proper time.
When To Change Your Air Filters
Most filters have a timeline printed on the wrapping. 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 engineered to only last one month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have produced media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The standard 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 it's dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to pricey components, 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 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.
Figuring out 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 Austin area home
- Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
- Number of occupants in the house
- How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home
For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically suggest to change them every 1 or 2 months, which is really a great rule of thumb. However, general rules aren't always for everybody. 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 less 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. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but extremely dirty filters can cause seriously reduced HVAC performance.
- Vacation home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
- Common 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 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. In addition, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Austin 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 equipment, but some homes have another filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your unit is designed to handle a certain amount of pressure in your home sweet home, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can shorten the life expectancy of your system if it isn't designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple:
- Locate your return air vents.
- Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from the wall.
- Inspect for a filter. If one is inside, pull it out and write down the size.
- Verify the filter type is the one recommended by the manufacturer.
- If filter is dirty, replace with the manufacturer's recommended filter of the same size and type.
Amazing as it may seem, filters can really affect 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 dust will obstruct airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes more pressure on your system, so you should verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you could experience reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may wear out much faster than the standard.