Changing air filters is a necessary fact of owning or renting a home. Most homes have central AC these days, and ensuring that the air running through your home is clean is a crucial step in taking care of your health and the health of your family. In addition, changing your air filter regularly will prolong the life of your HVAC system and avoid costly repairs.
If you rent your home, be in contact with the landlord to find out if they change the air filters for your building. For many buildings with many units, it is probably part of their rotation, but single- or double-occupancy rentals may fall to the tenant to change.
Basics of Air Filters
Air filters come in rectangular shapes that fit onto the cold air intake of your HVAC system. Their purpose is to filter the particulate matter from the outside air as it passes through your system. A filter’s MERV Rating, or Maximum Efficiency Reporting Value, will tell you the size of particles that the filter can remove from the air. The ratings range from 1 to 16, with the smaller numbers filtering less material. Cheaper filters made from fiberglass are typically a MERV rating of 1 to 2, while the more common pleated air filters range from 3 and above.
The type of filter you need will be apparent when you go to remove the old filter. Some older HVAC systems only take fiberglass filters, though most will accept pleated filters.
Keep in mind that if you only use window-based AC units, the only maintenance you need to do is clean the mesh filter with hot, soapy water once a year, depending on your rate of use.
You’ll find all sorts of formulas online to determine how often to change your air filter, but here is a general guide that will cover most homeowners or renters:
- If you have a fiberglass filter (it looks like thick spiderwebs layered on one another), change your filter every 20 to 40 days. You’ll want to err on the quicker turnaround if you have more than one pet or have allergies.
- If you have a pleated filter (looks like a series of ridges, usually white), change your filter between 30 and 90 days. The lower number, again, is if you have more than one pet or allergies, or if you live in an area with a lot of air pollutants like a city.
- For homes that are only occupied for part of the year or are in a mild climate that doesn’t require the central heating and air conditioning system to run very often, that number can increase to every 6 to 12 months.
A good rule of thumb is if you to pull the filter out and it looks dirty on the air intake side, it’s probably time to change it. If the filter has been installed for a while and it does not look dirty, check that it is installed correctly, with the air intake arrows facing the right way, and that the filter fits snugly into its cradle.
When One Filter Isn’t Enough
Whether you live in a high pollution area, near a motorway, or have many animals or allergies, some of us need a little more muscle in our air filtration. In this case, it is often worthwhile to purchase a stand-alone air filtration device. For many, these products can mean the difference between annoyance or illness and clean airways.
REACTUAL recommends the GermGuardian True HPA AC4825 for overall value. It requires a air filter replacement every 7 months, but offers three levels of air purification and can trap and zap truly minuscule particles and diseases that might make it through a traditional HVAC filter.
For even heavier hitting purification for those with compromised immune systems, the RxAIR Plus is an excellent choice trusted by most hospitals to keep airborne diseases at bay.
Feel free to examine Consumer Reports to look deeper into stand-alone air filters.
Everyone wants to keep their home space a sanctuary and a place where they can breathe easy. Luckily, changing filters is easy, especially when you consider the long term benefits of purchasing a home warranty through American Home Shield. With every plan, they offer 50% off the retail cost of air filters for your HVAC system and deliver them, at your preferred interval, to your door.
With a home warranty, not only do you take the hassle out of remembering to purchase air filters, your HVAC system is covered for repairs when it inevitably needs maintenance.