The most underrated and ironically the cheapest routine heating system maintenance of all is replacing or cleaning the furnace filter. You might think, “I haven’t changed my filters for months, and my furnace works fine.” Why do you need to replace furnace filter regularly?
You will be surprised by how essential this seemingly simple step could be to your family’s comfort and well-being.
What are the 3 Big Reasons for Changing Filters Regularly?
There are at least three striking reasons why you should keep your heating filters clean by replacing them systematically:
- Enhance the furnace efficiency and extend its life. Replacing and cleaning the furnace filter improves its efficiency and enhances its performance. Despite its simplicity in its function, well-maintained filters can significantly contribute to the unit’s long life. You will be reducing the workload of your heating device by removing any obstruction in the airflow that is collected in your filters.
- Prevent increased energy consumption and costly repairs. If neglected, heating filters would be incapable of keeping the air contaminant-free. It could also cause systems malfunction for the furnace in the long run since the dirt build-up will block the free flow of air, making the unit work harder than it should. Dirty filters could then cause your high electric bills at the end of each month. There is a maximum savings of 15% of your energy consumption if you keep your furnace filter clean and free from clogged dirt.
- Improve the air quality in your home and protect your health. The filters of a furnace perform an important function in maintaining good indoor air quality for your home. It traps harmful particles such as dirt, pollen, dust, pet dander, and even minuscule synthetic materials such as plastic or metal, from your breathing air and prevents them from recirculating back into the air.
Washable-type furnace filters need cleaning just by rinsing them with water. But if you employ disposable filters, they need to be replaced constantly.
Consulting the users’ manual or asking for the services and routine maintenance of a trusted HVAC technician to show you how to clean or change your heating filters can be a big help if you are doing it for the first time.
At a minimum, a furnace filter should be changed every three months. But a monthly inspection of your filters can help you assess if the filters require cleaning or replacement should they be excessively dirty or have some tears or holes.
Why You Need to Replace Your Furnace Filter
Besides the expensive purchase price for the unit, people spend hundreds of dollars to maintain and repair their HVAC systems such as their air conditioner and furnace. Rightly so since climates worldwide keep getting more unpredictable each passing year, a smart homeowner would want their heating systems for the long haul.
But the simplest general maintenance for heating systems, which mostly can be done by homeowners themselves without spending a dime, is commonly forgotten.
One reason that many Americans neglect to change their furnace filters regularly is that the impact of an uncleaned air filter is not as visible and felt compared if other major parts malfunctioned.
Another excuse is the busy lifestyle that most people manage and the comforting mentality of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
But such a passive attitude could negatively impact your furnace, cost you unnecessary and additional expenses on electricity, and jeopardize your health.
What can help you take the state of your furnace air filter more seriously? Here are three factors:
To Preserve Your Heating System
First off, the heating filters’ foremost job is to protect the unit itself from contaminants that could get sucked in when the air is drawn inside. If these filters got neglected, unwanted particles could roam around inside your unit and compromise its performance.
If you change your furnace regularly, you can cut the chances of the internal components being damaged or in need of repair. You can devote your money dedicated to repairing expenses to replacement filters or the services of an HVAC expert in routine maintenance instead.
To Save You Money
Vital parts of the furnace such as the air handler and heat exchanger could be compromised if your filters are jammed with dust or too clogged with dirt and other particulates. If components of the heating system are hindered to move freely, it will consume more electricity to power through the obstacles.
The Department of Energy expertly stated that simple cleaning or changing the air filter could yield a 15% savings each month. That is a considerable amount of savings for just simple routine upkeep! This statistic goes both ways for heating and cooling systems.
To Protect Your Health
The main reason why you should keep your furnace filters in spic and span condition is that the indoor air quality of your home affects your family’s health. The fine mesh of the air filter traps harmful particles such as dirt, pollen, dust, pet dander, and even minuscule synthetic materials such as plastic or metal, from your breathing air and prevents them from recirculating back into the air.
If left unattended for months, the buildup of particulates could be blown back into your living space and trigger mild to severe allergies and other respiratory problems. Your household is also in danger of mold infestation if the furnace is not running at its proper capacity and cannot regulate the temperature and remove the excess humidity.
All in all, quite an easy cleaning or replacement of filters could save you from a lot of trouble and expenses for heating system repairs, high electricity fees, and medical bills.
But, how easy cleaning and replacing an air filter really is?
How to Change Your Furnace Filter
A furnace filter can either be cleaned if it is a washable type or replaced if you employ a disposable air filter. Whether you are a Do-It-Yourself kind of person or a newbie to handling home equipment, here are the five basic steps you can easily follow:
- Read the user’s manual for instructions.
Consulting the instruction manual is a good first step in handling the intricate heating system, which could be a bit intimidating at first. But the manual can give you the vital information you need to clean and replace your filters properly such as where you can locate your air filter, what size of filters you need for replacement, how to clean a washable type filter and how to properly put it back in.
- Turn the power off.
This step is crucial because safety should always come first. Make sure that the power is disconnected from the furnace before attempting to open the unit. Turning the device off can also prevent any contaminants from being sucked into the mechanism in the absence of the air filter while you are in the process of cleaning them or preparing the replacement.
- Assess if filters need cleaning or replacement.
Hold up the filters to the light and see if you can see through it. If the color of the surface is a grayish-brown color, it already accumulated enough dust buildup ripe for cleaning. Even if you have the densest mesh available in the market, you would still be able to tell if the filters are laden with dust.
Filters that are made from paper with cardboard frames and paper screens are disposable and should be thrown away after one use. If you employ reusable filters, use the users’ manual as a guide to washing away the dirt buildup.
- Clean or replace and put it back as per instructions.
WARNING: Do not attempt to simply dust off the filter or vacuum it and reuse the same disposable filter just to save money. Even the strongest vacuum cannot reach the depth of the material. Worst, you can cause irreparable damage to the filters by tearing a hole and loosening the fiber density, which would only defeat the purpose of cleaning the filter.
Take the dirty filter away and replace it with a fresh one. Often, there are arrows on the edges of the filter to guide in placing the new one. Ensure that you are following the right direction of the arrows so as not to obstruct the airflow. Check if the filters fit securely to the opening before putting the cover back on.
Not every brand or model of furnace is the same so always confirm with the users’ manual if you are doing it exactly right.
- If still unsure, have a trusted HVAC expert do it for the first time.
If it is the first time you open and handle home equipment by yourself, there is no shame in calling in for the services of a certified HVAC expert to clean or replace your filter. He can show you where exactly your filter is located, and how to safely remove the old one and replace it.
Be sure to only let a trustworthy technician operate your heating system. Some may charge you an unreasonably high amount for an effortless furnace service. The services of a reliable specialist would often include giving you the necessary information for you to do the cleaning and replacement of filters yourself the next time.
When to Replace Your Filters
At a minimum, it is advisable to change your furnace filters every 90 days or three months. But a monthly inspection of your filters can help you assess if the filters require cleaning or replacement should they be excessively dirty or have some tears or holes.
Take also into consideration if you have pets that shed a lot or there is already an odor buildup in your living space. You may want to swap it out more often and shorten the waiting time to 60 days or two months to change your heating filters.
If you have a family member that is allergic to airborne particulates, you should replace your filter at least every month. The price of replacement filters no matter how often you spend on them would be a lot cheaper than anti-allergy meds and the discomfort that comes with it.
For families with special health needs, some switched to a furnace filter with a higher MERV rating. Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value indicates how well a filter installed in heating and cooling devices catches air toxins or contaminants.
Why not set on your phone calendar a monthly reminder to check your furnace filters and replace them? That way, it will be hard to forget and ignore such easy yet important maintenance.