As homeowners, we’ve all heard the conventional wisdom: Change your HVAC filters regularly! While it may sound like advice put out there just to sell more filters, it’s actually a very important component to keeping your HVAC system running smoothly and efficiently, while helping to maintain the air quality within your home.
How Does A Clean Filter Help My HVAC System?
In order for your home’s air conditioning and heating systems to run smoothly, the air circulation within the system needs to be free flowing. If there are blockages or leaks somewhere along the way, the efficiency of the system is decreased. In the case of a dirty filter, a blockage is created that can make your HVAC system work harder to maintain the right temperature for your home. That extra effort translates into higher energy usage, which means a higher heating or cooling bill. So, if you want to make sure your system is running at peak efficiency, it’s a very good idea to keep the filters clean.
Ok, Great…But Which Filter Should I Use?
The exact type of filter you will use can vary widely. If you have a brand new system, the HVAC techs should have provided information on the best filter for your system. If you are like most of us, and moved into a home with an existing system, you’ll need to do a little research to find out which filter works best for your home. Checking the current filter will give you some hints as to the exact size you need to purchase.
When visiting your local hardware store, you might be a little overwhelmed by the number of filter types available. Don’t worry – there are a few key things to look for:
- Pleated filters are generally a good fit for most systems. Regular fiberglass filters don’t block as much dust, dander, pollen, or other particulate matter that could be circulating in your home.
- Check the MERV rating, which is an efficiency scale from 1-16. The higher the number, the more particulate matter the filter will block. Those with severe allergies should look for a filter that has a rating of 14-16, while most homeowners should be ok with 9-12.
- Avoid washable filters – they don’t clean the air nearly as well as other options.
How Often Should I Change My Filter?
How often you will change your filter depends on your home and lifestyle. If you live in an area that is relatively dust-free, you may only need to change your filter once every 3 months. If you have pets, smoke, or live in a particularly dusty area (say, near a dirt road or next to a farm) you will likely need to change your filter much more often.
A good rule of thumb is to do a quick monthly filter inspection, to see how much dust and dirt has collected. If your filter is clearly dirty and appears to be clogged, it’s time for a new filter.
What Will Happen If I Don’t Change My Filter?
The biggest repercussion of not changing your HVAC system is an increased energy bill, but there can be the potential for larger issues. If the filter is very old and filled with dirt, a lot of that dirt will end up cycling through your home, reducing your air quality and making it hard for those with allergies to breathe. There are also potential fire hazards due to system inefficiency, so it’s definitely in your best interest to keep your filter fresh and clean!