Last Updated on June 18, 2021 by Sophie Turner
Your home’s HVAC system uses a lot of energy to keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Even if you’ve got an energy-efficient model, keeping the filter clean is crucial. When left with a dirty filter, the system works harder to pull air through. The extra strain on your system not only increases your energy bill but puts extra wear and tear on your unit. This can lead to costly repairs and ultimately shorten the lifespan of your heating and AC system.
Several factors influence how often you need to change your filter, such as:
- The type of filter you have
- The indoor air quality
- The outdoor air quality in your local area
- Whether or not there are pets in the home
- Whether or not there are smokers in the home.
The standard fiberglass filter should be changed once every month. Other filter types can be changed every three to five months. You should check your filter once a month to see if it is dirty. If you cannot see filter media because of dust and dirt, it’s time to change it. Changing your filter on a regular basis will improve airflow, which ensures the system runs as efficiently as possible.
Step One: Turn off the HVAC Unit
Turn the unit off so that it doesn’t turn on and try to run while you’re working with it. It is not good to run your air conditioner without a filter in it – even if it is just for a few minutes. You don’t have to turn it off at the breaker. You can turn the system off at the thermostat.
Step Two: Determine Your Filter’s Location
Inspect the inside unit. You’ll see an access door of some kind, near a vent. This vent is what brings the air into the unit.
Step Three: Check the Current Filter Dimensions
Open the access door and look at the existing filter. On the side, you should see the dimensions listed. This is the same size replacement filter you need. If you buy one that is larger or smaller you will have gaps that let in dirt, dust, and debris. That adds stress to your unit.
If you’re not sure what kind to buy, note the brand and model number of your HVAC unit. You should be able to locate it on the panel. Your local hardware store will be able to help.
Once you have a new filter, it’s easy to change them, no matter what type you buy. Ideally, you should purchase at least a MERV 8 rated filter, as this is the minimum recommended for homes. If you live in a home with pets, upgrading to a MERV 11 will filter out more particulate matter. MERV 13 is recommended in homes where people have severe allergies or other health conditions that affect breathing. Anything higher than this is only recommended for healthcare environments. It will make your home HVAC system work harder than it needs to.
If odors are an issue in your home, consider purchasing a carbon filter. It will help pull odors out each time the system runs.
Step Four: Remove Old Filter
Pull the old filter out of the filter slot.
Step Five: Insert New Filter
Place the new filter into the same place you removed the old filter from. Pay attention to the arrows on the side of the filter. These indicate the direction that the air flows in. If the ductwork that brings air into the furnace is on the right side, make sure the arrow on the filter is also pointing to the right. If the ductwork is on the left, the arrow should point to the left.
Step Six: Close Access Panel and Turn the Unit Back On
Once the new filter is installed, all you have to do is close the access panels and turn the HVAC unit back on.
Washable and Reusable Filters
If you have a washable and reusable filter, you repeat the same steps. The difference is that you’ll clean the air filter and let it dry before you put it back in.
When you clean it, make sure to use a gentle stream of water. If the water pressure is too strong, it can spread the filter fibers apart. This ruins your filter’s effectiveness.
You can take the air filter outside and spray it with a garden hose. Alternatively, you can take it into your shower to spray it off. You should spray the opposite direction of where the air was coming through. It is the opposite direction of where the dirt has built up.
It is absolutely essential that the filter is completely dry before it goes back into the HVAC unit. If there is any moisture left in the filter when it goes back into the unit, you run the risk of introducing mold and mildew into the system.