Changing out HVAC air filters before they’re too riddled with debris to permit normal airflow is absolutely essential. By staying on top of this easy and low-cost maintenance task, you can keep the heating and cooling equipment in your Bastrop, Texas home functioning as it should. However, although general recommendations suggest checking this component once every 30 days and replacing it every one to three months, the right filter change schedule for your household could be quite different.
Why General Recommendations Don’t Always Work
Basic recommendations for changing HVAC air filters are far too general to apply to all HVAC equipment types, households, and property locations. These recommendations assume that people are living on landscaped grounds, that they aren’t too near active construction, and that they don’t have one or more pets milling about the building. Factors like these can have a significant impact on how much debris your air filter collects and how often it reaches its limit. Other factors such as the number of people living in your home, whether or not residents smoke in the building, and the type and amount of humidity that’s present in your living environment matter too.
What Does a Dirty HVAC Air Filter Look Like?
When performing monthly filter checks, you have to know what to look for. Airborne debris collects on HVAC air filters in the form of an increasingly thick, lint-like mat. These accumulations can look similar to the lint that collects on dryer screens.
In some homes, even filters that have been in place for just one to two weeks can have visible build-ups of collected debris. Thus, it’s also important to know exactly how much filter debris is too much. Checking whether you can see through your filter when you hold it up to the overhead light is a quick trick for gauging its remaining lifespan. If the light shines right through an air filter, it still has a little life left in it. If collected debris is too thick to let any of the light shine through, it’s safe to assume that air will struggle to move through the filter as well. It’s also time for a new HVAC air filter if:
- Collected debris falls off of or floats away from the filter when it’s removed
- The filter is bent, warped, or the frame is broken
- There’s moisture or discoloration on the filter
- There are heavy build-ups of debris behind the filter and at your air vents
You should always put a fresh air filter in following any event that significantly lowers your home’s IAQ. For instance, if you host a dinner party that finishes with guests lighting cigars, have a small kitchen fire, or experience a minor indoor flood, changing your filter out will prevent pervasive and recurring odors, limit the likelihood of mold, and protect your HVAC equipment.
How to Replace Your HVAC Air Filter
If you’re a new homeowner who’s never performed a filter change before, you can get helpful and needs-specific tips for completing this task during your next HVAC tune-up service. If you’re wholly intent on tackling this task on your own, take your old filter to a local home and hardware store to ensure that you get the right filter type and size. Before putting a new filter in, look for an airflow symbol or an arrow that indicates the right direction for insertion. Although both sides of an air filter can look much the same, one side of these components is always slightly rougher than the other.
The rough, textured side of air filters is what captures and retains airborne particulates, and the smoother side of these components faces your heating or cooling equipment. Not only is it important to change your air filter regularly, but it’s also important to ensure that new filters are correctly and securely installed. Putting your air filter in backward, choosing an ill-fitting air filter, or putting your filter in the wrong place can be just as problematic as having a dirty air filter or absolutely no filter at all.
Different HVAC Air Filter Types
HVAC air filters come with different maximum efficiency reporting value (MERV) ratings, but they’re only available in two basic types. You can choose from non-pleated fiberglass filters or pleated air filters. Non-pleated fiberglass filters are the most economical option, but they typically last just 30 to 40 days. Pleated air filters cost a bit more, but these options can provide up to 90 days of reliable service in even busy, multi-resident homes.
If you opt to install a fiberglass air filter, you’ll need to check this component once every three to four weeks. You should also be sure to have at least three to four replacement filters on hand so that you’re never at risk of running out. This way, even when local home and hardware stores don’t have your preferred filters in stock, you’ll have plenty of replacements at home for the heating or cooling season.
Household Factors That Impact Your Filter Change Schedule
Having a larger household often necessitates more frequent filter changes. After all, this means having more people engaging in steamy cooking projects, taking hot showers or baths, and shedding hair and dead skin. If you run your HVAC system often, checking your air filter monthly is an absolute must. However, if you toggle between your current home and a summer home or vacation property, you might be able to put filter changes off for as long as six months.
Other household factors that affect your filter change schedule include:
- Having indoor pets
- Regularly opening windows to let fresh, outside air flow in
- Having a larger living area
When you know how household-specific factors affect your HVAC air filter and its lifespan, you can take steps to mitigate them individually. For instance, you can run your HVAC system in fan mode when opening your windows so that incoming air is constantly cleaned. You can also brush your pets on a regular basis to trap loose hairs and pet dander, and you can use a high-powered vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
Environmental Factors to Consider
Newer homes that haven’t been properly landscaped tend to have large amounts of dust blowing around in their back, front, and side yards. Unfortunately, this dust eventually finds its way inside buildings where it enters HVAC systems. You could also have problems with dust control if your street hosts a lot of traffic or if your property is within just one to two miles of a major freeway.
General Health and Respiratory Issues
If there are aging adults, residents with compromised immunity, or newborn babies living in your home, it’s best to check your filter every two to four weeks and change it out as needed. This is also true if anyone in your household has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, allergies, or any other ongoing respiratory health issue.
We’re committed to helping residents of Bastrop, TX maintain safe, comfortable homes. We offer air conditioner, furnace, and heat pump installation, maintenance, and repair services. You can also turn to us for indoor air quality control and ductless mini-splits. If you need help changing or upgrading your HVAC air filter, or if you need an HVAC tune-up service, contact Blue Ribbon Cooling & Heating today.