During the winter, your air heating and cooling system relies on a very simple component to keep it in top condition: your furnace filter. Air filters are designed to trap and remove fine particulates from the air that circulates through your system. From dust and dander to pollen and pet hair, furnace filters work hard while your HVAC system runs to protect equipment and improve indoor air quality.
Wintertime is especially hard on-air filters since your system will be recirculating indoor air day and night. You may need to check and change your furnace filter more frequently during the winter months to keep your furnace functioning as efficiently as possible. Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing shares how to check and change your furnace filter to keep your air clean and your home comfortable.
Furnaces and heat pumps use different types of furnace filters. Air filters can either be disposable or reusable, depending on the needs of your system and your personal preferences. Many ductless HVAC units rely on washable, reusable metal filters, and conventional, forced-air systems typically rely on disposable filters. Homeowners may purchase reusable filters for HVAC systems, but these filters should be checked regularly and cleaned or replaced when they become damaged or dirty.
Unfortunately, many homeowners aren’t sure why filters are necessary. While it is true that air filters trap and remove particulates from your indoor air, their primary role is protecting your furnace. Air handlers and furnaces have delicate components and sensors, and even a fine collection of dust and grime could render your system less efficient. If ignitors, sensors, or moving parts become dirty, your system may run longer than it should, overheat, or function less efficiently, which can increase energy costs.
Every filter is rated with a MERV, or minimum efficiency reporting value. This rating measures the filter’s ability to remove particulates, with higher MERV ratings indicating the ability to trap finer particulates at greater efficiencies. A filter’s MERV rating ranges from 1 to 16, though MERV 13 is typically the highest rating appropriate for use with residential HVAC systems since using too powerful of a filter could block airflow and strain your system. Using the appropriate air filter gives you the chance to enjoy optimal air quality without consuming excess energy.
While using too powerful of an air filter can limit airflow, leaving a dirty filter in place can have a similar effect. Here are a few problems that occur if you don’t replace your furnace filter.
You may wonder how you will know it’s time to change your filter. The timeframe for changing air filters may vary significantly due to the type, thickness, and rating of the filter, as well as the size and condition of your household. Homes with multiple pets, many occupants, and residents who love to cook indoors may require more frequent air filter changes, while vacation homes or single-occupant households may be able to go a little longer between air filter replacements.
Filters typically include information on the packaging regarding how often they should be replaced, and timeframes typically vary from every month to every few months. Some high-efficiency filters need less frequent replacement. Here are a few guidelines for how frequently filters should be changed.
Keep in mind that all filters, regardless of MERV rating, may need to be replaced more often during the winter months due to increased system usage. Check your air filters every few weeks to look for dirt and grime buildup. Vacuum off or clean reusable filters according to manufacturer’s directions or replace disposable air filters as soon as they look dirty.
Replacing furnace filters is very simple, as long as you follow a few guidelines. First and foremost, it is essential to purchase the same size of filter as the existing one in your system. Before you visit your hardware store to pick up a replacement, open the access door on your air handler or furnace to see your existing filter. Check the markings on the existing filter to see if measurements, MERV rating, and brand information is available. It’s a good idea to take a photo of the filter for easy reference at the store. After you find and purchase the appropriate air filter, replace it using these steps:
Replacing your furnace filter is a fast, easy way to protect your heating system all winter long. Remember, anytime you have questions about protecting indoor air quality, feel free to reach out to the team at Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing for help. In addition to helping, you to find the appropriate filter for your system, our professionals can also replace yours during routine system maintenance. Give us a call today to get started on the path towards a healthier HVAC system.