How often should you change the air filter in your home?

Your HVAC system is just that, a complex system made up of many components all working together to make sure that when you push the thermostat, it responds accordingly. Regular maintenance performed by a trusted professional will help your system run better and more efficiently. But you don’t have to be a McElroy’s technician to perform the most basic (and important) maintenance element; changing your home’s air filter.

Congested filters are the most common problem we encounter when our service technicians visit a home for service. Dirty– or worse, missing– filters can cause a variety of problems for your home and your HVAC system. Another common mistake we find is a filter placed in backward. All filters will have an arrow showing the direction they should face. Make sure the arrow is facing towards the blower, matching the way air flows through the return duct.

What makes the air filter such an important component of your home’s HVAC? The air filter removes dust and particulates from air flowing through the return duct as it passes into the blower. Inside your air conditioning unit, the air is moved through an evaporator which uses freon to cool the air so that it can be distributed through the home. As the cool pipes meet the moist warm air, condensation forms.

Think of this process as the same as the condensation that forms on your glass of iced tea that sits outside on a warm summer day. The HVAC evaporator has a condensation drain that moves moisture away from the unit as it collects. But without a filter, that moisture mixes with the dust in the air, forming mud that can cake the inside of your unit. That buildup reduces efficiency and ultimately damages your system.

Air filters can serve a bigger purpose besides protecting your HVAC system. They can also protect you and the individuals in your home. Air filters remove dust from the air, but they also filter out harmful particulates, including pollen and bacteria that can cause allergies and illness. If your home is experiencing increased allergies or illness, the air filter may be a culprit. If you are regularly changing out your filter, but still experiencing symptoms, try examining the type of filter you are using. Air filters are generally rated using the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). MERV is measured on a scale of 1 through 16, with 1 being the lowest. This means that a filter rated at MERV 16 will remove almost all dust and particulates that pass through it. A word of caution though, not all HVAC systems can handle a MERV 16 filter. While the thicker filter will remove more dust, it will also require more airflow and requires your system to work harder to push the air through.

McElroy’s would be happy to help advise the right filter for your home during an inspection of your HVAC. Our professional technicians can help recommend the right filter that provides the highest amount of filtration and the proper airflow to keep your system running at its peak performance.

How often does the filter need to be changed?

You’ve probably heard that you should change your home’s air filter every three months. That is a great measure and generally correct. Like most things, the real answer is “it depends.” If you keep your home in pristine condition and deep clean it daily, or never open your doors and windows, you can probably change your filter annually and be fine. But, since that most likely isn’t possible, every 90 days is a great place to start.

If you have family members or individuals in your home with allergies, you should probably change your air filter every 60 days. The same goes for pets in the home. The air filter will pick up hair and the additional dust brought in by your pet, so plan to change your filter every 60 days. If you have a combination of pollen and dust allergies, as well as pets, you can change your air filter every 45 days to keep your system clean.

Prevention is always less expensive than emergency repairs. Change your filter!

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