Don’t Neglect Your Air Filters
The air filters in your heat and air conditioning (HVAC) system play an important role. Beginning in the earlier days of HVAC and continuing through this day, the primary purpose of an air filter is to protect the system from becoming clogged with dust and other airborne foreign objects.
Keeping your HVAC system free from dust and particulates is important. Your air conditioning system operates with four major components: an evaporator, compressor, condenser, and an expansion device. If any one of them becomes clogged, your system eventually fails. For example, if the evaporator coils become too dirty, the air conditioner system loses efficiency. The evaporator coils cannot effectively absorb heat because the dust on the coils blocks the absorption. An air filter is crucial to prevent that failure.
While having an air filter on your HVAC system is vital to its operation, simply having one in place is not enough to keep the HVAC functioning well. You must also keep the air filter clean and fresh.
Importance of Clean Air Filters
Clean air filters provide benefits that cannot be overstated. Replacing dirty air filters regularly has many benefits, including:
1. Prolongs the life of your HVAC system. As noted earlier, your air filter filters the dust and particulates out of the air when your air conditioner is running. It blocks those particulates from getting into the mechanical devices. After a short time, the air filter becomes filled with the very particulates that would have gone into the HVAC system. In time, the air filter becomes so clogged that air cannot move freely through it. The result is that your HVAC system has to work much harder and longer to circulate the air and cool your home. Additionally, you will pay more in utility bills. Eventually, your air conditioning system will break down.
2. Promotes the operational efficiency of your system. As you can easily imagine, a clean air filter makes it easier for your duct work to circulate air and achieve a comfort level in your home. It does not have to work as hard or run as long to achieve the desired temperature and humidity level. This means lower utility bills for you.
3. Improves the air quality inside your home. Clean air filters mean cleaner air inside your duct work as well as your home. Air filters now come in a range of filtering strength. However, the primary purpose of an air filter is to protect your HVAC system, not improve your air quality. A basic low-cost air filter filters out the largest particulates and dust, but some other air filters have a tighter mesh and can filter out not only dust, but pet dander, some bacteria, mold, and allergens. Be aware, however, that those stronger air filters become more readily clogged and can cause your system to work harder to circulate the air.
Some HVAC systems cannot endure the additional burden those filters place on them and they will cause the system to operate as inefficiently as a dirty filter. Before you install a higher strength filter, make sure it is appropriate for the system.
4. Reduces the likelihood of unhealthy air inside your home. When you are regularly breathing air that is circulating through filthy filters, you are risking your respiratory health. Dirty air filters contain contaminants that may be thriving in your duct work and then re-circulated into the air, instead of being removed entirely from your home.
5. Consider installing a permanent electrostatic filter. These filters cost about $20 and need to be washed once a month. These washable filters may be reused for 5 to 10 years. These filters need to be rinsed monthly and allowed to dry before re-installing. Some even have carbon filtration for odor removal!
How Often Should You Replace Your Air Filter?
Depending on your lifestyle, the number of occupants and pets in your home, and whether your home is near a construction site or located in an area with heavy air pollution, the frequency of replacement can vary. As a general rule of thumb, you should replace your air filters every 30 to 60 days. That is the recommendation of filter manufacturers of basic 1-3 inch filters. If you are prone to light to moderate allergies, you could benefit from a stronger air filter or change them more frequently.
Here are some suggested averages that might help you know how often you should change the air filter at home:
- Average-sized home without pets – change every 90 days.
- Add a dog or cat – change every 60 days.
- Add more than one pet or anyone who has allergies – change every 20-45 days.
Consult with Professional HVAC Contractors
Be sure to contact reputable, licensed HVAC contractors to discuss your HVAC needs. An HVAC expert can evaluate your system to determine what kind of air filters would work best for your system and what kind of regular duct work maintenance would ensure optimal efficiency.