While everyone is thankful for heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, there are some things that you, as a homeowner, should do to make sure that your HVAC system runs properly all year long.
Yes, you need to schedule a yearly maintenance to make sure nothing major has gone wrong with your unit, and yes you should always keep your outside unit clear of debris like yard waste, weeds and dead leaves. There is also one thing you should do every three months: change your air filters. The air filters in your system are the first-line of defense against all kinds of particles and debris that can not only cause allergic reactions and possible respiratory problems, but can also cause your HVAC unit to stop working properly. Here’s a quick guide to air filters.
What if You Don’t Change Your Filter?
Air filters are simple enough: there is usually just a particle-catching material on a frame that fits right into your air exchanges throughout your home. If you neglect to change them, at minimum twice a year, then you can run into several problems.
Neglecting to clean your filters can be costly, as dust will begin to build up on the mechanical parts of your HVAC unit. These particles can accumulate on fan blades, motors, inside your ductwork and the coils of your system. If this happens, your unit will not be able to work as efficiently as is could otherwise. This means that you will be paying more per month in energy costs, since the unit has to work harder to keep the temperature you want, and it also means that the strain on the system could cause it to malfunction, resulting in high maintenance bills.
What Do Air Filters Do?
Air filter block out all of the small particles and gases that can enter your home from the outside, as well as block indoor particles from entering your HVAC system.
This includes particles like pet dander, dust, dust mites, pollen, molds and spores, hair, lint, tobacco smoke, insects and even, with some filters, viruses that can make you and your family sick. All of these particles can contribute to respiratory problems and allergic reactions.
This is why changing your air filter on a regular basis is so important. Once they become clogged with dirt and debris, they will no longer function correctly and will stop trapping particles that are in your home. The best part is, it doesn’t take much time to change the filters, usually no more than three minutes for each one. Just make sure to change them all at the same time so you never forget one.
The Types of Filters
HVAC Air Filters come in a variety of materials, sizes, costs and functions, so it’s best to know what you need before running to the store to purchase new ones.
One thing all filters have in common is their MERV rating: Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values. The MERV runs on a scale of one to 20, and the higher the number, the better the filter is and the more particles it can capture.
There are many different types of filters, but there are three main ones: mechanical filters, pleated filters and HEPA filters.
Mechanical filters are the cheapest and most common. They have a decent rating for removing large particles (dust and pollen), but are not very good with small particles. Pleated filters are much better than mechanical ones, having a MERV around 10 and costing five to 10 dollars. They trap all large particles and many of the smaller ones as well. HEPA filters (High-Efficiency Particulate Arresting) are by far the best and most expensive. Selling for around $100 each, HEPA filter will trap nearly anything in the air. You only need to change these once every 18 months or so.
Changing the Air Filter
First, open the exchange vent and see what size you need to buy. If there is a filter already in place, you can just read the three number dimensions; if not, use a measuring tape to get the right measurement.
Once you buy the filter you want, just open the vent and pull down on the dirty filter: it should come right out. Then place the new one in the vent and close the grate. It’s that easy.
If you have trouble remembering when to change your filters, just change them at the beginning of every season.
Stephan Reed is the digital marketing coordinator for Filter-Guru, a nationally renowned HVAC air filter distributor located in Columbus, Ohio.