When Should I Change My Air Conditioner's Air Filter at Home?

February 26, 2015

Sometimes we’re asked what is the number one thing that Tulsa area homeowner's can do to maintain their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? The answer is simple this; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Changing 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? We know it's the last thing on your mind, but this is really important stuff. Changing the air filters is not a tough thing to do for most Tulsa homeowners, but there are typically two obstacles to actually accomplishing this task:

  1. Determining just how often to replace 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 packaging. It may instruct "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Pay attention at the store and you should see that some are meant 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 industry standard seems to be once every three months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we recommend our friends and family to go by. If the filter is 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 to let it go. If you want to listen to the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest writing the date on the filter when you swap it out, and programming a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also note that your filter manufacturer might have a different recommendation from your HVAC equipment manufacturer.

Determining how often to change your air filters hinges on several factors:

  • Which air filter your system requires
  • The overall air quality of your Tulsa area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Number of occupants in the house
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home

For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically tell you to change them every 30-60 days, which is actually 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 frequently than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a remote area, own a infrequently 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. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but exceptionally dirty filters can cause weak HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Vacation 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
  • More than one pet 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. This is a convenient way to get money-saving discounts and other helpful information on your smartphone, tablet or desktop. In addition, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Tulsa area home's air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or the date of your choosing.

How to replace your return air filter

Most people know how to replace the air filter in their unit, but some residences have an extra filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your unit is engineered 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 life expectancy of your system if it isn't designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy:

  1. Find 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 there, 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 dramatically affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend referring to the manufacturer. A higher quality 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 ought to verify that your HVAC system was built to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and HVAC parts may die off much faster than the standard.
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