The air filter is a supremely important yet all too overlooked component of any HVAC system. A lot of individuals will put off changing their air filter far beyond the recommended 6 to 12-month range (more on the specifics of this later). In fact, it’s not uncommon for homeowners to ignore their air filters altogether. But the filter is a vital HVAC element that can cause a lot of issues if not properly monitored. 

What Does an Air Filter Do? 

In order for an HVAC system to run efficiently, all of the air that moves through it will need to pass through a filter first. Air filters are tasked with sifting pollutants, dust, and dirt out of the air. Without this process, contaminants can obstruct the valves and fan motors in your system. 

Another primary function of an air filter is to maintain the air quality within a home. Believe it or not, indoor air pollution can often be 2 to 5 times higher than the pollution outside. Mold, ​​VOCs, lead particles, asbestos, second-hand smoke, radon, and nitrogen dioxide all contribute to poor indoor air quality. 

What is a MERV Rating? 

Every air filter will be labeled with something called a MERV rating. This is a measurement used to determine how efficient a filter will be at trapping particles as they pass through your system. A filter is rated on a scale of 1 - 20 but home HVAC systems typically fall between MERV 7 and MERV 12. Anything below this threshold will not maintain air quality well and anything above it will put too much pressure on your HVAC system. 

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Where Can I Find My Air Filter 

Air filters are commonly found in a few different places throughout the home. Look in these places to locate your air filter: 

  • On the ceiling. The filter might be behind a ​​large vent on your ceiling.
  • On the floor. If your home has ductwork in a crawlspace or basement, your filter is likely housed in a floor register. 
  • On the walls. This is a very common spot for an air filter. If you find a vent next to your air handler closet, this is likely where your filter is. 
  • Throughout the home. Look for air returns throughout. If you have one for every room, each will likely house an air filter.

How Often Do I Need to Change My Air Filter

As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the agreed timeframe for when to change a home air filter is once or twice a year. But this is a very general guideline. Other factors will play into when you should change your filter. 

Cheap fiberglass filters will actually need to be replaced every 30 days. Higher-end pleated filters will last around 6 months. But both of these timeframes can shift depending on the amount of use, size, and type of filter. 

With every use, a filter will collect more and more dirt, dust, and allergens. Let this go on for too long and the efficiency of your HVAC system will decrease. Unsure if your filter needs replacing? You can inspect it to get a better idea. 

How Can I Tell if It’s Time to Change My Filters 

It’s recommended that you check your filter once a month to monitor the contaminant build-up. You can likely tell just by looking if the filter is past its prime. But if you’re unsure, you can remove it and hold it up to a light source. If you can’t see the light shining through, it is most definitely time to replace the filter.  

Should I Change My Filters More Often? 

There are some households that should be especially adamant about changing their filters. You should change your filters more often if any of the following applies: 

  • If you have children, change your filters every 2-3 months 
  • If you have cats or dogs, change your filters every 2 months 
  • If you or another member of your household has allergies or asthma, change your filters every 6 weeks 

What Happens If I Don’t Change My Air Filter When it’s Time to? 

You may think it’s not a huge deal to change out your filter. But there are far-reaching consequences to neglecting your filter maintenance. A clogged filter will reduce the amount of airflow inside the HVAC system, forcing the fan motors to exert more effort. Eventually, the system will exhaust itself and it will wear down or malfunction. 

When your HVAC system has to work harder to reach your desired climate, it also uses up more energy. You’ll start to notice an increase in your electricity bill if you don’t replace a dirty filter when you need to.  

Your air quality will suffer if you don’t change your filter. If there’s a layer of dust accumulated on the filter, it won’t be able to remove contaminants. All those hazardous particles will simply escape back into the air that you and your family breathe. 

How Can I Keep My HVAC Running Smoothly? 

The grand takeaway here is you absolutely must change your air filter in a timely manner. A month or so outside of the recommended time frame won’t set you back too far. But don’t allow your system to run with a dirty filter for too long. 

Keeping up with filter replacements is an integral part of proper HVAC maintenance. But it’s only one piece of the puzzle. There are many other components that need upkeep too. One way to manage your HVAC system is to sign up for a maintenance program. Through regular repair and cleaning, you’ll save a lot of time and money avoiding major malfunctions. 

If you’re in the Thorton, Colorado area, To the T Plumbing and Heating is here for all your HVAC needs. We will conduct a thorough inspection of your system to get ahead of any issues before they snowball into more costly repairs. Whatever the season, we’ll have your system running in tip-top shape!