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

February 26, 2015

Every once in a while we’re asked what is the best thing that Albany area homeowner's can do to ensure efficient functionality of their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? That’s an easy one; 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. Research suggests that indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks? It’s not thought of often, but it is extremely important to consider. Changing the air filters is not difficult for most Albany homeowners, but there are usually two obstacles to actually getting it done:

  1. Determining just how often to replace your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. Replacing them at the proper time.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a printed "expiration" date on the box or plastic. It may say "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Look around at the store and you'll 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 exchanged once every 6-12 months. The industry standard seems to be once every 3 months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we suggest our friends and family to go by. If it's dirty, change it! A dirty air filter can exacerbate or cause damage to pricey equipment, like your compressor, so it's best to change it out more often than to let it go. If you want to follow the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest writing 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 equipment manufacturer.

Deciding how often to change your air filters relies upon several factors:

  • The type of air filter you are using
  • The overall air quality of your Albany area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Occupancy of the home
  • How much construction is taking place in the neighborhood around your home

For the common 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturers basically say to change them bi-monthly, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. But general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you have to endure 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 less populated area, own a seldom occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with few automobiles and trucks, changing your air filter every 12-months may be quite sufficient. Why do we call out our beloved pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter fast. Naturally, the air filter is just doing its job by containing pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause seriously reduced HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Seldom used home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Common 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. Plus, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Albany 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 you know how to replace the air filter in their unit, but some houses have an additional filter in the return vent. Whether you have one or not is dependent on what your unit's manufacturer recommends. Your system is engineered to handle a certain amount of pressure in your home sweet home, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can reduce the lifespan of your system if it isn't designed for it. Discovering whether you have a return filter and replacing it is easy:

  1. Go to your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to remove from the wall.
  3. Check 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.
Amazing as it may seem, filters can greatly affect your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A higher quality HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier debris 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 system parts may break down much faster than otherwise.
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