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 Daytona Beach area homeowner's can do to maintain their air conditioning and heating system between their regular 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 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 Daytona Beach homeowners, but there are usually two hurdles to actually accomplishing this task:

  1. Knowing just how often to swap out your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. Remembering to change air filters when needed.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a timeline printed on the box or plastic. It may instruct "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Pay attention at the store and you'll see that some are meant to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have produced media air cleaners with filters meant to be swapped once every 6-12 months. The industry standard seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we suggest our customers to go by. If the filter is dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can exacerbate or cause damage to costly parts, like your compressor, so it's recommended to change it out more often than to let it go. 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 may have a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer.

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

  • Type of filter your A/C system requires
  • The entire air quality of your Daytona Beach area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home

For the common 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically tell you to change them bi-monthly, which is really a great rule of thumb. Still, 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 frequently than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a less populated 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 should you factor in your pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter in no time, just like a vacuum. Obviously, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but extremely dirty filters can cause weak 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
  • Multiple pets 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 Daytona Beach 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 of us know how to replace the air filter in their equipment, but some homes have an extra filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your system is made to handle a set amount of pressure in your home sweet home, and the more filters you have the harder 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 a piece of cake:

  1. Locate your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to take off the wall.
  3. Look for a filter. If one is inside, pull it out and record 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 alter your home's airflow, which is why we recommend referring to the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier particles will obstruct 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 reduced heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may break down much faster than the standard.
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