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Change Your Home’s Air Filter – Why You Should and How

Changing your home’s dirty air filter is an easy task that most homeowners tend to overlook or simply just forget to do. Why should you change your air filter? There are plenty of good answers to this question, let’s take a look at why you should change yours regularly and learn how to do it.

Why You Should Change Your Air Filter

1. Avoid System Failure
A dirty filter restricts the airflow into your HVAC systems air handler, placing strain on the air handler’s fan motor. Over time, this could burn out the motor, cause your system to overheat and eventually fail. Dirty filters are the leading cause of HVAC system failure.

Using a dirty filter will also make your ducts dirty. Duct cleaning is costly and can be easily avoided by changing your filter regularly.

2. Energy Consumption
If your air filter is dirty, it is essentially clogged, restricting the amount of air that can travel through it. Your air handler’s fan motor has to work harder to transfer air through the filter to achieve the temperature you set on your thermostat. This causes the fan motor to run more than it needs to, increasing energy consumption and impacting your electrical bill. Changing your dirty filter regularly will provide you an immediate cost savings on your energy bill.

You can also decrease your home’s carbon footprint by ensuring it is running as efficiently as possible. Changing your filter not only saves you money but also helps you to be environmentally responsible by reducing your energy consumption.

3. Air Quality
A dirty air filter significantly reduces the air quality throughout your home. Dirty filters transfer contaminants into the air in your home, which can aggravate allergies and asthma, and can have a stronger impact on children than adults.

Where Is My Air Filter?

Air filters are usually located next to your heating unit or air conditioning system’s air handler. The air handler is a box made of sheet metal that contains the fan.

Air handlers pull air from inside your home through a return duct system. From there, it blows the air through your heating or cooling system (in order to reach the desired temperature) and back into your house through ducts.

The air filter is usually located where the return duct enters the air handler under a 1” wide cover or inside a 1” wide opening.

Sometimes air handlers are installed in attics, requiring the air filter be installed inside the return due to limited space issues. In this case, the filter can be accessed by removing the grate that covers the return duct.

Some homes have more than one ‘zone’ meaning that there is essentially more than one HVAC system. If this is the case, your house may have air filters located at the air handler as well as in the returns.

Verify how many systems you have and check every accessible grate to ensure you have located all of your filters. Most homes have only one filter per system but some homes have several, not all systems are the same.

What Size Filter Do I Need?

Air filters come in many sizes but luckily, it’s pretty easy to determine what size you need. Some filter manufacturers print the filter size directly on the frame. Unfortunately some do not. Pull your old filter out and if the size isn’t printed right on it, take some measurements. If your measurements seem a little odd, like 17-7/8″ x 21-7/8″ x 1-3/4″, simply round up to 18” x 22” x 2”. Most air filters in residential homes are 1” thick but they can be up to 2”. Write down your dimensions and pickup replacements at Lowes, Home Depot, at your local hardware store or online.

If you are having a hard time finding the replacement size you need, you may have a custom filter. There are a number of websites that offer custom fabricated filters, try performing a Google search to locate one.

It’s worth noting that some systems have integrated air purification units, which use ‘Whole House’ filters that are 3”-6” thick. Proprietary filters for air purification units can be purchased online or through HVAC suppliers.

When Should I Change My Filters?

The frequency that you should replace an air filter will vary from home to home. Most manufacturers recommend changing air filters every 90 days, which is suitable for most homes.

Depending on the conditions inside your home, you could need to change filters more often. If you have pets or live in an area with high amount of pollen or dust, you may need to change your filter more often. You should get into the habit of inspecting your filter every 30 days. If you notice buildup, you may want to change your filter early.

How Do I Install My New Filter?

Once you purchase your replacement filter, installation is as easy as the removal of the old filter was. Simply slide the replacement filter into the same slot you pulled the old one out of and you are good to go. Don’t forget to check your filter monthly.

This article is Copyright © 2012 Chase Building Group, LLC.

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