Though its importance in your heating and cooling system is often overlooked, your air filter is an essential component of your HVAC system. That’s why it’s important to regularly check your air filters and change them when necessary. Generally, to keep your HVAC system energy efficient and to keep your indoor air quality up, most air filter manufacturers recommend you change your air filter every 30 to 90 days.
But there’s a pretty big difference in changing your air filters every month versus every three months. How are you supposed to know when you need to change your air filter? And what’s the actual benefit of changing your air filters regularly?
What is an HVAC Air Filter?
Most air filters are from spun fiberglass, which is the same material that makes up your attic insulation, and a cardboard frame to help it keep its shape. Other pleated air filters are made from pleated paper.
These HVAC air filters are inserted into your return air duct and help prevent things like mold spores, lint, pet dander, dust, bacteria, and other contaminants from entering into your HVAC system and circulating back into your home.
There are a variety of different air filters; an HVAC filter will typically have something called a MERV rating, or minimum efficiency reporting value rating, which lets you know the type and size of pollutants the filter will act as a barrier against.
What is a MERV Rating?
An air filter’s MERV rating tells you how effectively it’s going to stop dust and other airborne contaminants from getting into your air conditioner system and filtering back out into your environment. The higher the rating, the better the filter is at trapping small particles.
For instance, filters with a rating of 16 or lower are considered to be standard for a residential or commercial HVAC system. Filters with a rating of 17 through 20 are used in places like surgical operating rooms and other environments where cleanliness is essential.
What Happens If I Don’t Change My Air Filter?
You might be wondering what will happen if you simply chose not to change your HVAC filters.
Well, the sky won’t fall, but your home comforts will definitely suffer, and not just due to poor air quality. While the end result of using a clean air filter is purer indoor air quality, your air filter’s primary role is protecting the inner components of your heating and cooling system.
Air conditioners are made of highly sensitive parts that draw in air, cool it or heat it, and push it back out into your home. If those parts were to become clogged with dust, pet hair, and other airborne particles that your AC filters usually protect it from, your HVAC equipment will be unable to work properly. A dirty air filter will be unable to filter out contaminants and will lead to the particles clogging up your air conditioning system.
Not only will this lead to poor indoor air quality for you and your family, it will also lead to higher energy bills. When dust and debris get past your clogged filter, it causes reduced airflow to your HVAC system. Your fan motors will begin working harder to push the same amount of air through your system, using more energy to achieve the same temperature change inside your home.
So, not only will a clean filter extend the service life of your HVAC units and keep your indoor air purified, it will also keep your energy bills low.
What Kind of Air Filter Should I Buy?
The most important thing you need to know when buying a new air filter is what size you need. You can determine this by looking at the old filter, or checking the equipment manual that goes with your air handler. Smaller HVAC units may call for smaller filters; but if you choose a filter that’s too big or too small, your air filters will not be as effective.
Once you know what size filter you need to buy, the next step is choosing the right filter type. Like we mentioned earlier, there are a variety of different filters to choose from. Here are some of the most common:
HEPA filters have a MERV rating of 16, and are able to remove up to 99.97% of airborne allergens and pollutants. If you have moderate allergies or severe allergies, a HEPA filter will increase your comfort level in your home.
However, they are more expensive than the standard HVAC air filter, and they don’t filter out everything. Additionally, mold might settle on the filter itself, meaning the HEPA filters will actually require more air filter changes than other types of filters.
UV filters utilize a UV light source to kill pollutants as they pass through your HVAC system. They will provide you with stellar indoor air quality. However, they are ineffective against dust and other allergens, meaning they need to be a part of a larger HVAC system with more standard filters in place.
Pleated filters have an advantage over other air filters, as they have increased surface area due to their pleats. They are effective against mold, dust, pet debris, and other difficult pollutants. Pleated filters also require fewer filter changes over time.
The downside is that they are one of the more expensive options, and your HVAC will have to work a bit harder to push air through them, as they are thicker filters.
The less expensive fiberglass filters are one of the cheaper options on the market, and they’re great at filtering out things like lint and dust. If you want more advanced air filtering, however, a slightly higher tech option may be better for your family.
As you can see, the filter that’s right for you really depends on your family’s needs. Let’s talk about the different factors in your home that might impact the type of filter you’ll choose.
Factors That Impact Your Air Filters
There are a few questions you need to ask yourself when it’s time to change your HVAC filter.
First, what type of filtration system do you have? Does your home have an air scrubber, or are you relying solely on your filters to improve your indoor air quality? If your home does have an air scrubber, you could maybe get away with a less high tech filter option.
Are there any pets in the home? Multiple pets will require more air filter changes and a more hefty filtration system altogether, as there is more dander in the air.
How big is your home, and how is it laid out? How easy is it for a furnace filter or HVAC filter to move air through your home?
Do you have concerns about allergies or any specific contaminants? If so, you may need to get a filter that will specifically catch that particular pollutant, or simply change your filters more often, since dirty filters will have a negative impact on anyone in the home with allergies.
How Often Do I Need to Replace My Air Filters?
All this being said, generally, a good rule of thumb is to replace your air filters every 30 to 90 days. Depending on your family’s needs, you may need more or less air filter changes. However, you can always be sure to get the right air filters and keep your AC in tip top shape when you opt into our affordable HVAC maintenance plan at Lex Air.
Join the Cool Club!
If you’ve been looking for reliable HVAC companies in the Carrollton area, look no further. When you join the Cool Club, Lex Air offers you maintenance alerts when it’s time for yearly tune-ups, as well as priority service, a discount on repair parts, and no overtime or after hour charges. We also offer maintenance plan members a new equipment discount when it’s time to replace your equipment.
Call the Professionals at Lex Air For Air Filter Replacements and More
If you’re looking for HVAC professionals in Dallas, Texas and the surrounding metropolitan area, give our offices a call at 972-217-8955. You can also send us a message here. We can help you with everything from tune-ups to furnace filters and new installation–even HVAC filters. Give us a call to schedule an appointment today!