Air filters are a central, but often under-appreciated part of a central HVAC system. They do not just filter out bits of pollen and dust that would otherwise circulate through the home and lower indoor air quality. Click here for a more in-depth explanation on different types of filters.

What happens if you do not change your air filter?

The unfortunate eventual outcome of not changing your air filter, beyond working less efficiently, is that it will stop working altogether. Your HVAC system is powered by a fan motor that has to work harder when there is a clogged filter. This extra strain can make the motor overheat or even break. They also provide a first line of defense against larger objects such as bits of loose insulation being pulled into the system where they could cause damage or present a fire risk.

Keeping your system clean leads to lower energy bills. Filters that get dirty allow dust and grime to build up on the equipment, making it work harder to produce the same results. Replacing air filters frequently is much less expensive than a struggling system that may eventually result in needing costly repairs.

It’s a lot simpler to change your air filter than it is to schedule a duct cleaning, but dirty ducts can result in an ongoing drain to your system efficiency and a long-term source of pollutants in your air supply.

When to Change Your Air Filter

It’s best to change your air filter every month or two, especially if you have pets or live in a high-pollen area.

1. Check your unit’s filter every month.

2. Change your filter once a month if it is not pleated.

-non-pleated: less surface area but has lower energy costs. be prepared to change them more often.

3. Look for a label on your unit that says which filter will fit.

4. Choose a filter with a MERV rating of at least 6.

– MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, which essentially means how well it’s able to filter out small particles.

If you have central air:

1. find the main unit that conditions and circulates the air.

2. Look for an air filter slot in your unit.

– The location of the filter slot can vary from one unit to the next, but it should look like a long, thin opening with a removable cover.

3. Turn your unit off.

4. Remove old/ Insert new filter.

– The filter should have an arrow on the side that indicates the direction of the airflow. Make sure this arrow points in the same direction the old filter did, which will be towards the ductwork and the unit’s blower.

5. Turn the unit on and make a note of when you replaced the filter.

Be sure to have your system checked by a professional at least once a year and air ducts cleaned once every 2-5 years to make sure the equipment and ductwork are all ready to go as temperatures rise. The everyday health of your home starts in your air ducts.