Furnace filters are the unsung heroes of the home when it comes to keeping indoor air clean and free of allergens. They also help remove particles sucked into vents that can build up over time and damage the furnace fan or heating coil. Filters vary in thickness and size, depending on the type of furnace in your home.
Although furnace filters help to achieve better air quality and a more efficient unit, a dirty filter can be just as damaging. Neglected filters become clogged with dust, dirt and other airborne particles, forcing your unit to work harder and maintain proper airflow. This consequently reduces the efficiency of your HVAC unit and leads to higher energy consumption. Furthermore, dust particles and other allergens will become more frequent in your home after air is forced through a filter that is no longer useful.
So how often should you change your furnace filter? Most manufacturers recommend changing the filter every three months, but this is a "best-case-scenario" estimate and there are several factors that can quickly add more dirt and dust to the air. More people living under one roof means a higher amount of dust getting stirred up into the air – and eventually into your filter. Homes with pets see a huge increase in dander, which will lead to a dirtier filter. Running the HVAC fan more frequently will pull more air into the vents and bring airborne particles along with it, further clogging the filter.
If you haven't changed your filter in over a month but aren't quite sure if it needs yet to be replaced, there are several ways to tell if you're in need of a new one.
1. Take a look around the furniture near your air vents. Does there seem to be an increase in settled dust in the immediate vicinity? If so, your unit is most likely pushing through dust and could benefit from a filter swap. Try to get in the habit of pulling out and inspecting your filter once per month.
2. Look for layers of dust and dirt as well as signs of discoloration on the filter. You should notice a pattern after several checks and have a better idea of when exactly your filter should be changed.
Furnace filters are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased at almost any hardware store. They're also frequently sold by the case, which is a good idea since they'll always be on hand and ready to go.
It's also recommended to change your furnace filter before the beginning of a new heating season, which we're fast approaching. Changing the furnace filter should be part of every homeowner's fall checklist to ensure the unit runs properly throughout the season.
So what are you waiting for? Change your filter!