Clogged air filters consistently rank among the most common causes of HVAC system malfunction. These relatively small and low-cost components can have a tremendous impact on how heating and cooling systems work. They also play an important role in improving indoor air quality (IAQ) and in limiting the overall costs of HVAC use.
Regularly changing the air filters in your HVAC system can promote higher levels of home comfort and resident health, and it can even increase the lifespan of your heating and cooling equipment. Read on to discover why air filter changes matter and how to get the greatest benefits possible when performing them.
Dirty Air Filters Overwork Your HVAC System’s Blower Fan
A forced-air heating and cooling system is designed to push or to force air through a building’s ductwork so that it’s distributed to individual zones or rooms. When air is being moved through these systems, it has to first pass through the air filter. This gives the filter a chance to capture and to collect tiny particulates such as dust, dirt, and dander. As a result, the air being released at the vents is relatively free of impurities.
However, the dirtier that a filter becomes during the weeks or months that it’s being used, the harder the system’s blower fan has to work at forcing air through the ducts. Filters that are never or rarely changed tend to have thick, visible accumulations of lint-like debris. These accumulations can also include larger elements, such as small bits of insulation that have broken or torn off, pet hair, loose carpet fibers, and more. The denser that filter buildup becomes, the more stressed and overworked the blower fans are. This can mean greater wear on all system components, less indoor comfort, and increased spending.
Filter Changes Prevent Problems With Overheating and Freezing
When filter buildup is incredibly dense, it can cause problems with freezing and overheating. This is the result of slower air delivery and increased overall effort. Sadly, overlooking a single and relatively inexpensive component can lead to the need for costly and potentially widespread repairs. When heaters or air conditioners are already nearing the end of their lifespans, this additional stress can sometimes result in outright failure.
Filter Changes Lower Your Carbon Footprint and Improve Your IAQ
In households that are heavily reliant upon their HVAC systems, the majority of home energy use can often be attributed to the heater and the air conditioner. Thus, taking steps to make HVAC equipment run more efficiently is an excellent way to lower your carbon footprint and your overall impact on the natural environment. Best of all, filter changes are both quick and easy to perform. If you take care of this basic yet important maintenance on a regular basis, you’ll minimize the amount of energy that’s necessary for maintaining comfortable indoor temperatures, and you’ll save significant amounts of cash over time.
Routine filter changes are also among the best things that homeowners can do to improve their IAQ. Filters that are allowed to accumulate a thick sheet-like buildup of debris are significantly less effective at cleaning the indoor air. Not only will a dirty filter remove far fewer airborne particles, but it may even begin releasing much of the debris that it’s already collected. When this happens, collected debris will start moving through the HVAC ductwork, and it will get trapped in the air registers and vents. Indoor air quality will decline. Moreover, if there is anyone in the home who’s been diagnosed with asthma, allergies, or any other respiratory-related ailment, these health issues will become exacerbated.
How Often Should Air Filter Changes Be Performed?
When it comes to maintaining your HVAC system, always defer to your owner’s manual for each respective piece of equipment. As with all appliances, the recommendations for maintenance will refer to a unit that’s relatively new and being moderately used. As your air conditioner or heater grows older and you find yourself using this equipment consistently and for long stretches of time, you can get more needs-specific service recommendations from your HVAC technician.
Most homeowners should change their HVAC air filters at least once every two to three months. For daily use, filters should be checked and changed as needed once every 30 days. This is the best schedule for everyday use because it will allow for the highest levels of operational efficiency and the best possible IAQ. Filters should always be changed monthly in households in which problems like asthma, COPD, or allergies exist. If you have carpeting in your home, if you live near a busy street or highway, or if you have lots of dust from construction in your neighborhood, check and change your air filter every 30 days.
What Are the Best Filter Types?
Changing your air filter is certainly one way to reduce energy use and to improve your IAQ, but these efforts won’t matter much if you’re using the cheapest and lowest-performing filters on the market. Many modern air conditioners come with inexpensive fiberglass filters. Despite their low costs, these filters are fairly effective at straining out airborne particulates like dust and dirt. What they cannot do is remove airborne contaminants. The removal of airborne contaminants is important after having used your HVAC system during fire season when wildfire smoke advisories have been issued.
You should probably invest in a filter that can remove airborne contaminants and other micro-fine particulates if there’s a high amount of automotive traffic in your area, if you live near an airport or factory, or if there are other environmental factors diminishing the outdoor air quality. When household residents have progressive or chronic respiratory issues, getting the best filter possible can help make things a little easier.
Pleated air filters cost slightly more than fiberglass filters. These options don’t get clogged as easily, and they offer a better level of air filtration. These are a good choice for homes with one or more pets given that pleated filters remove more pet dander than fiberglass options do. They are also notably more effective in extracting mold spores from the air. Even with daily use of your HVAC equipment, you won’t need to replace a pleated filter as often.
The next step up is high-efficiency particulate air filters, or HEPA filters. These filters can remove as much as 99.7% of all airborne particulates. They are excellent choices for homes with infants, elderly adults, and family members with respiratory conditions. They also work well in homes that are surrounded by environmental contaminants as the result of location or environmental features. One drawback to remember when choosing a HEPA filter is that it must be adjusted specifically to suit your HVAC system and its requirements.
The Benefits of Electrostatic Filters
Electrostatic filters offer all of the benefits of costly high-performing filters, but they’re available at a significantly more affordable price. These filters produce static electricity through a combination of fibers. The resulting electrostatic charge captures and very effectively retains airborne particulates so that there’s virtually no risk of having them come loose and be redistributed throughout the home. These filters will remove the greatest amounts of particulates from the indoor air, and using them won’t have a significant impact on your wallet.
What MERV Ratings Are and Why They Matter
All HVAC air filters have a maximum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating. Filters with higher MERV ratings are able to remove more particulates and more micro-fine particulates from the indoor air. Filters with lower ratings are generally only effective at removing dirt, dust, pollen, and some of the dander that might be circulating through a home.
MERV ratings range between 1 and 16. For the best IAQ, consider choosing a filter with a rating between 10 and 13. As with HEPA filters, any filter with a rating of 14 or higher must be specially adjusted to suit your HVAC equipment. This is necessary for ensuring that extremely high levels of air filtration do not force the HVAC system to work far harder than it’s intended to.
At Champion Air, we offer reliable options in air conditioning and heating services to residents of Scottsdale, Phoenix, and the surrounding areas. You can also call us for duct cleaning services, air duct sealing services, and preventative maintenance plans. If you need help choosing the right air filter for your HVAC system or if you want to learn more about our services, get in touch with us today.