Every once in a while we’re asked what is the most important thing that Naples area homeowner's can do to secure 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 ideal operation of your HVAC system, in addition to your home's air quality. Studies show that indoor air pollution is in the top five environmental health risks? We know it's the last thing on your mind, but this is really important stuff. Changing the air filters is not difficult for most Naples homeowners, but there are typically two challenges to actually getting it done:
- Determining just how often to replace your furnace or air conditioner filter.
- Remembering to change air filters when needed.
When To Change Your Air Filters
Most filters have a recommended guideline on the wrapping. 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 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 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 contribute or cause damage to costly 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 marking the date on the filter when you swap it out, and setting a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also note that your filter manufacturer sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC unit manufacturer.
Determining how often to change your air filters relies upon several factors:
- The type of air filter you are using
- The entire air quality of your Naples 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 standard 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically tell you to change them every 30-60 days, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. Still, general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you have to tolerate light to moderate allergies, you might require an upgraded 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 where there are fewer cars around, replacing your air filters each year may be quite sufficient. Why do pets matter so much? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter quick. Obviously, the air filter is just doing its job by capturing 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
- Typical suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
- House with a pet: 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
Here’s an easy way to stay on top of this; 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. Also, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Naples 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 unit, but some houses have an additional filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer's recommendation. Your system is made to handle a set amount of pressure in your house, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can decrease the lifespan of your system if it isn't designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is a piece of cake:
- Go to your return air vents.
- Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to pull off the wall.
- Inspect for a filter. If one is inside, pull it out and record 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.
Incredible though it may seem, filters can dramatically alter 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 debris will reduce airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes increased pressure on your system, so you need to verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may die off much faster than otherwise.