When Should I Change My Air Conditioner's Air Filter at Home?

February 26, 2015

Sometimes we’re asked what is the most important thing that Hilton Head Island area homeowner's can do to secure their air conditioning and heating system between their regular tune-ups? It's a simple question with a simple answer; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Replacing furnace and return air filters is extremely important to the ideal operation of your HVAC system, in addition to your home's air quality. Studies show that indoor air pollution is in the top five environmental health risks? We know it's the last thing on your mind, but this is really important stuff. Changing the air filters is not all that hard for most Hilton Head Island homeowners, but there are typically two hurdles to actually completing this job:

  1. Knowing just how often to replace your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. Remembering to change air filters when needed.

When To Change Your Air Filters

Most filters have a printed "expiration" date on the wrapping. It may say "Lasts up to 3 months" or "Change filter every 90 days". Check out the filters at the store and you'll notice that some are designed to only last a month, while other manufacturers (like Honeywell) have released media air cleaners with filters meant to be changed once every 6-12 months. The standard seems to be once every few months for most higher quality filters, but we have a rule of thumb that we tell our readers to go by. If they're dirty, change them! A dirty air filter can add or cause damage to pricey equipment, like your compressor, so it's best to change it out more often than neglect it. If you want to listen to the manufacturer's recommended limit, we suggest writing the date on the filter when you swap it out, and adding a reminder for yourself in your phone or on a calendar. Also note that your filter manufacturer may have a different recommendation from your HVAC system manufacturer.

Determining how often to change your air filters hinges on several factors:

  • The type of air filter you are using
  • The entire air quality of your Hilton Head Island area home
  • Pets – Dogs, cats, etc.
  • Number of people in the home
  • The level of air pollution and construction around the home

For your standard 1"-3" air filters, the OEM specs basically tell you to change them bi-monthly, which is really a great rule of thumb. However, generalities may not be suitable for your specific needs. If you have to endure light to moderate allergies, you may need to upgrade the air filter or change them even more frequently than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a remote area, own a less occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area with little auto traffic, annual replacement of your air filter may be quite sufficient. Why should you factor in your pets? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter fast. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by capturing pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause diminished HVAC performance.

In summary:

  • Vacation home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Typical suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
  • Got a cat or dog: Change every 60 days
  • More than one pet or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days

How To Remember To Change Your Air Conditioner's Air Filters

Epperson Service Experts offers a simple solution; sign up for the Service Experts Email Club. This is a great to receive discounts on service, tips and other helpful information directly to your email. But wait… there’s more, your email subscription preferences let’s you set a reminder to change your Hilton Head Island area home's air filter every 30, 60, 90, 120 or 365 days, or any date you find most convenient.

How to replace your return air filter

Most of us know how to replace the air filter in their system, but some homes have an extra filter in the return ducts. Whether you have one or not is dependent on which HVAC system you have. Your system is made to handle a set amount of pressure in your home sweet home, and the more filters you have the fiercer the blower motor works, which can decrease the lifespan of your system if it isn't designed for it. Learning whether you have a return filter and replacing it is simple:

  1. Locate your return air vents.
  2. Some covers have screws and some have tabs. Unscrew or pull tabs to take off the wall.
  3. Check for a filter. If one is in place, pull it out and write down the size.
  4. Verify the filter type is the one recommended by the manufacturer.
  5. If filter is dirty, replace with the manufacturer's recommended filter of the same size and type.
Incredible though it may seem, filters can greatly impact your home's airflow, which is why we recommend asking the manufacturer. A more expensive HEPA filter that is designed to catch finer particles will obstruct airflow more than a cheaper filter. With restricted airflow comes increased pressure on your system, so you ought to verify that your HVAC system was engineered to handle it. Otherwise, you may experience uneven heating and cooling efficiency in your home, and unit parts may break down much faster than normal.
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