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Air Filters: What You Should Know About Changing Yours

  • April 10, 2014

air filtersWithout your HVAC system, you wouldn’t feel much relief from the outdoor elements. It is one of the most important investments in your home, and that’s why it’s vital that you keep it well maintained. A system that is well cared for can operate to its full life expectancy and is as energy efficient as possible. It will also reduce the likelihood of any untimely breakdowns.

On top of scheduling annual preseason service appointments, there’s one simple task you should yourself do to give your HVAC system the TLC it needs; change your air filters regularly. This can go a long way in promoting your system’s health. But not all filters are created equal. Learn more about the basics of air filters and how to find the right one for your needs.

Why Changing Your Air Filters is So Important

Air filters work as barricades, preventing as many airborne particles from entering your HVAC system as possible. This helps to protect both your indoor air quality and your HVAC system. When an air filter becomes clogged with dirt and other debris, it’s forced to run longer and work harder to try and compensate. This kind of unnecessary strain will also decrease the life expectancy of your system. To make things worse, if your filter comes into contact with condensation, an ideal mold breeding ground is created. When mold grows within your HVAC system, it can spread throughout your entire home. This, of course, can degrade your system, but can lead to serious health problems as well.

Types of Air Filters

In general, most filters are made of biodegradable paper and can be thrown away when it’s time to change them. Of the disposable types, fiberglass, polyester and pleated and high-efficiency air filters are the most common. Fiberglass filters are standard and are often fit into HVAC systems at the time of installation. They are designed to help protect the components of your system, but are only capable of removing less than 10 percent of the pollutants in your air. Fiberglass filters have a MERV rating between 1 and 4.

Though similar in design, polyester and pleated filters are much more effective than their fiberglass counterpart. They can clear up to 45 percent of the toxins in your air and have a MERV rating between 8 and 13. High-efficiency filters can remove up to 85 percent of indoor air pollutants and boast a MERV rating between 14 and 16. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right filter for your system.

In residential systems, the ability of high-efficiency filters to trap so much debris can often result in restricted airflow. That’s why these filters are usually reserved for use in hospitals. In most cases, an air filter with a MERV rating between 9 and 12 is ideal for home use. It’s important to make sure you get the best air filter for your particular system. When in doubt, an HVAC technician can help you find the right one.

Tips on Changing Air Filters

  • Turn your system off before changing filters.
  • Use a damp cloth to clean up any dust. This should be done before and after replacing the filter.
  • Follow your unit’s installation instructions to make sure you’re fitting it in correctly.
  • Be sure the filter fits snugly into place.
  • Replace any gaskets, levers and/or seals, making sure they are secure.
  • Turn the system on and check that the filter stays in place while its running.
  • Take note of the date you changed the filter so you can keep and eye on how quickly it gets dirty. Filters that become clogged with dust and debris prematurely can be indicative of a problem with your HVAC system.

When to Change Air Filters

At minimum, your air filters should be changed every three months. Oftentimes, more frequent changing is needed. This may be especially true if:

  • Your system is turned on 6 to 12 months out of the year.
  • Someone in your home smokes indoors.
  • There are a lot of occupants in your home.
  • Anyone in your home has respiratory issues or suffers from allergies.
  • You own a pet.
  • You use a fireplace.
  • Your home is located in a windy area.
  • There has been a wildfire nearby.
  • You have a large garden or live on a farm or ranch.
  • Construction projects are happening in or close to your house.

If you need help or more info on changing your air filters, please feel free to contact us at Comfort Services, Inc. anytime.

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