When Should I Change My Air Conditioner’s Air Filter at Home?

Occassionally we’re asked what is the best thing that Philadelphia area homeowner’s can do to protect their air conditioning and heating system between their seasonal tune-ups? That’s an easy one; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Changing furnace and return air filters is critical to the proper performance of your HVAC system, in addition to your home’s air quality. Did you know indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks? We know it’s the last thing on your mind, but this is really important stuff. Changing the air filters is not a tough thing to do for most Philadelphia homeowners, but there are typically two hurdles to actually getting it done: 

  1. Knowing just how often to replace your furnace or air conditioner filter. 
  1. Changing them when you’re suppose to. 

When To Change Your Air Filters 

Most filters have a recommended guideline on the box or plastic. It may say “Lasts up to 3 months” or “Change filter every 90 days”. Pay attention at the store and you should see that some are engineered to only last a single month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have created media air cleaners with filters meant to be exchanged once every 6-12 months. The norm seems to be once every few months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we tell our customers to go by. If they’re dirty, change them! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to costly parts, like your compressor, so it’s recommended to change it out more often than not. If you want to follow the manufacturer’s recommended limit, we suggest writing the date on the filter when you swap it out, and setting a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Keep in mind that your filter manufacturer sometimes has a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer. 
 
Determining how often to change your air filters can depend on several factors: 

  • Which air filter your system requires 
  • The entire air quality of your Philadelphia area home 
  • Pets – Cats, dogs, birds, etc. 
  • Number of occupants in the house 
  • General air pollution in the Philadelphia area or construction taking place nearby 

For the common 1″-3″ air filters, the manufacturer specs basically say to change them every 30-60 days, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. But general rules aren’t always for everybody. If you have to tolerate light to moderate allergies, you might require an upgraded air filter or change them even more frequently than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you’re in a less populated area, own a infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area where there are fewer cars around, replacing your air filters each year may be quite sufficient. Why should you factor in your pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter in no time, just like a vacuum. Obviously, the air filter is just doing its job by capturing pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause diminished HVAC performance. 

In summary: 

  • Seldom used home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months 
  • Average suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days 
  • House with a pet: Change every 60 days 
  • Several pets or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days 

How To Remember To Change Your Air Conditioner’s Air Filters 

Stallion Heating and Air Conditioning offers a simple solution; sign up for the Service Experts Email Club. This is a great to receive discounts on service, tips and other helpful information directly to your email. Also, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Philadelphia area home’s air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or a specific date of your choice. 

How to replace your return air filter 

Most of you know how to replace the air filter in their system, but some residences have another filter in the return ductwork. Whether you have one or not is dependent on the HVAC manufacturer’s recommendation. Your HVAC is made to handle a maximum amount of pressure in your home sweet home, and the more filters you have the harder the blower motor works, which can reduce the life of your system if it isn’t designed for it. Finding out whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple: 

  • Find your return air vents. 
  • Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to pull off the wall. 
  • Check for a filter. If one is inside, pull it out and note the size. 
  • Verify the filter type is the one recommended by the manufacturer. 
  • If the filter is dirty, replace with the manufacturer’s recommended filter of the same size and type. 

Incredible though it may seem, filters can greatly affect your home’s airflow, which is why we recommend referring to the manufacturer. A top tier HEPA filter that is designed to catch tinier dust will reduce airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes greater pressure on your system, so you should verify that your HVAC system was made to handle it. Otherwise, you might experience lowered heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and system parts may break down much faster than normal. 

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