We spend a decent amount of time inside our homes, no matter the season and although a cross breeze may allow for some fresh air, the air in your home is largely stagnant. According to the EPA, the indoor air we are exposed to is 70% more polluted than the air outside and they’ve ranked poor indoor air quality among one of the top public health risks. So what can homeowners do about it? Changing your HVAC air filter is a great place to start.
For many homeowners, this is a recurring task that often falls by the wayside until there’s a significant problem with your home’s air quality. Don’t wait until it becomes noticeable and everyone is sneezing. We’re walking through the reasons why you need to change your HVAC air filter, how often you need to change the air filter in your house, and choosing the best one.
Why do you need to change your HVAC air filter?
Your HVAC filter plays an important role in the protection and efficiency of your HVAC system, as well as maintaining the quality of the air in your home. The filter is most often made of pleated fibers enclosed in a frame. Filtration of the air happens when it is brought back into the HVAC equipment to be “cleaned” and then distributed again.
Your air filter traps and holds a wide range of particles and contaminants that affect the quality of your air, your health and definitely your comfort. These items include:
- Microorganisms and bacteria
- Animal fur and hair
- Lint and other fibers
- Mold and mold spores
- Dirt and dust
As you’d suspect, over time your air filter will become full of that small debris, preventing it from working properly until it’s cleaned. A clogged filter not only means your air quality will continually decrease, but your HVAC system will also run less efficiently. Your system is working harder to heat, or cool your home, using more electricity.
How often do you need to change the air filter in your house?
To keep this simple — you should change your air filter when it’s dirty. But, you need to make sure to check it frequently enough so you don’t let it run too long in that dirty state. So how often should you check your air filter? On a planned interval. Whether you do it on the last day of each month, or you group it with other home tasks, you’ll stay on top of it. You can easily bucket it in with other cyclical home maintenance tasks (like cleaning your dishwasher or garbage disposal maintenance.)
During peak seasons — summer and winter, your system is already working harder than normal to regulate the temperature in your home. It’s during these peak times when you’ll want to check for build up more frequently.
There are some important factors to keep in mind that may adjust how often you change the air filter in your home:
- The type of filter your system requires and the manufacturer’s recommended replacement frequency
- The overall air quality where you live. Are you near a factory? On a busy street? In the country?
- How many pets do you have?
- How many people live in your home?
- Do you, or any of the people you live with, have allergies?
If you live alone with no pets, no allergies and no coal-plant burning in your backyard, you could change your filter every 6-12 months. If you have multiple pets or allergies, it’s recommended you change it every 30-45 days.
Benefits of changing your HVAC air filter
Changing your air filter will result in noticeable changes within your home. Here are some quick benefits of changing your HVAC air filter:
- Healthier indoor air free of dust, pollen, allergens and other contaminants
- Increased efficiency (and money savings) because your HVAC system isn’t working twice as hard with slowed down air flow requiring more energy and electricity
- Increased longevity of your HVAC system. The interior of your system will also remain clean, keeping buildup from leading to expensive maintenance or system failure
- It’s environmentally-friendly, because if your system is working harder through slowed air flow and a clogged filter, it uses more energy, electricity and more greenhouse gases are produced
Choosing the best air filter for your house
Air filters are segmented based on their material type, and their MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating. MERV rates the overall effectiveness of the air filter — so a higher MERV rating means a finer level of filtration. That means fewer dust particles and other airborne contaminants like pollen and pet hair can pass through.
To put it in perspective, home HVAC systems do well with a MERV rating between 8 and 13. MERV ratings in the range of 14 to 20 are typically found in hospitals or surgery settings.
So what’s the point? Find the appropriate filter with a MERV rating that works for your home’s needs and your system. Mike Brosselt of Angie's List notes that polyester and pleated air filters have a MERV rating between 8 and 13 and will remove up to 45 percent of the air pollutants in your house.
High efficiency air filters with a MERV rating 17 and above - "Often made from pleated filter paper or synthetic polyester fibers, high-efficiency filters can trap very small particles of dust, pollen, mold and other irritants" - may seem like a great idea, but Brosselt points out that the sacrifice in air flow can kill your HVAC system.
Breathe easy in your home with an HVAC maintenance check
If you’re unsure if your HVAC system is using the right air filter or the last time your air filter was replaced, work with an HVAC professional in Alexandria. Our team will work with you to change your HVAC air filter if it’s dirty, and we’ll educate you on the best filter to choose in the future.
To schedule your seasonal HVAC maintenance visit, call the Alexandria HVAC professionals at John C. Flood at (703) 783-0247 or schedule service online.