A Guide to Proper HVAC Filter Maintenance

The cool, refreshing air circulating through your home is the result of many different processes coming together. One important piece of the puzzle is the HVAC system filter. It cleans the air you breathe, filtering out airborne particles like dirt, dust mites, pollen, bacteria, and more.

Of course, it can’t filter out anything if it gets clogged up and forgotten. This leads to other problems as your system struggles to push all that air through a little screen of debris. Make sure that doesn’t happen with this guide on when to replace your HVAC system filters.

Why It’s Important to Change Your Filters

If you don’t change out your air filters, you may be wondering, ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ The answer to that question probably ends with your HVAC system overworking itself into early retirement. It’ll also rack up some expensive, unnecessary repairs along the way.

Setting aside the worst-case scenario, though, it’s still a bad idea to let those filters clog up. In the short term, making your HVAC system work harder to circulate air through blocked filters can still be damaging.

That extra strain will show up on your monthly bills throughout the heating or cooling season. After a while it will take its toll on other parts of the system, leaving a lasting impact. Either way, it’s going to cost you.

Also, in addition to paying extra to prematurely wear out your HVAC system, there’s the issue of indoor air quality. Think about it – your home’s air flows through those filters constantly. If they’re dense with dust, allergens, and debris, that’s what your air is pushing through before it reaches your lungs.

Lastly, if the neglected filter encounters moisture from condensation, there’s a serious risk of mold growth. The mold can be spread through your home via your furnace or air conditioning. That’s not just a costly repair or replacement issue – it can pose an alarming health risk.

Use the Right Filter

One factor of DIY HVAC maintenance is choosing which type of filter to use with your system. Many options are disposable, biodegradable screens that you can buy in bulk to have on hand for the season. There’s a variety of options, from polyester pleated filters to washable/reusable filters, to electrostatic or UV filters.

High-Efficiency Particulate Air Filters (generally known as “HEPA filters”) are recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency. That high efficiency is ideal for anyone with severe allergies, respiratory issues, or multiple pets in the home.

Another term worth knowing when choosing a filter is the “MERV rating.” That refers to the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values. It’s a measurement of the filter’s efficiency – the higher the rating, the greater the efficiency.

Make a Regular Inspection

So, when should you replace your HVAC system filters? The optimal method is to replace them every month. If you aren’t replacing them once a month, you should at least inspect their condition in that timeframe.

If your home has fewer residents, or no pets (filters trap a lot of pet dander), an inspection might suffice. This is also true of your home’s size – less space means less air to circulate.

However, that inspection is likely to show you a filter that’s done its job and is ready to retire. Read on to find out what signs point to replacing that filter immediately.

When to Replace the Filter Immediately

If your home is in a windy area or surrounded by a large garden or farmland, it’s probably time to change the filter. The same goes if you smoke inside or use a fireplace. If your inspection turns up a filter that’s chock full of debris, don’t keep using it.

Let’s say you’re taking a look out of curiosity but don’t have a replacement filter on hand. You ought to replace it as soon as possible, but it can wait a day or so. However, if you find a filter that looks damp or damaged, don’t run your HVAC system until that’s taken care of.

As we noted above, a damp filter leads to mold growth, a development you do not want to deal with. If you see any mold on the filter already, call an HVAC technician to inspect your system.

A damaged filter isn’t as serious, but it’s still a concern. You really shouldn’t run your furnace or air conditioner if the air filter is visibly bent, torn, etc.

How to Replace the Filter

Here are some tips on how to swap out your HVAC system filters.

First, shut off the system before you replace the AC or furnace filter. Make sure the filter fits properly. Refer to your owner’s manual, the internet, and/or the packaging on the filter’s label.

You should also make sure the filter isn’t broken before you start using it. Your unit is likely to have instructions you can follow. If you don’t have the owner’s manual, do a little research on your specific system. The information shouldn’t be hard to find.

While it’s a pretty simple process, it is possible to install a filter backward or use one that’s not compatible. Otherwise, there are just some common-sense steps. Wipe away any leftover debris before putting the filter back in place. Make sure it’s snugly in place and left the way you found it after installation.

Get Better Value with Fresh HVAC System Filters

Don’t put unnecessary stress on your HVAC system filters. It makes your air less clean and ends up costing more trouble than it’s worth. If you have any questions about this process or are due for a tune-up, reach out to Laury Heating Cooling & Plumbing They’ll provide the finest, most cost-effective HVAC services available throughout South Jersey.

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