Every central heating and cooling system uses a filter to remove airborne contaminants. Most standard filters are made of either paper or fiberglass in a cardboard shell. Forgetting to routinely change these filters will allow months of hair, dust and allergens to build up. This can restrict airflow and put a hefty strain on your indoor comfort system. Generally, it’s best to replace your HVAC filter every one to three months. Determining the ideal replacement schedule for your unique household can depend on several factors, like your chosen filter type and the size of your home.

Importance of Regular Filter Replacements

Your HVAC filter protects your air quality and the health of your heating and cooling equipment. A clogged filter won’t be able to stop pollutants from reaching your furnace and air conditioner. Instead, harmful debris will slowly settle on the system’s internal parts, lowering its efficiency and overall temperature control. A dirty system is more likely to require repairs and part replacements over time.

Furthermore, a system that struggles with restricted airflow may begin to overheat. This can manifest as short cycling, where the system turns rapidly on and off without meeting your temperature needs. Short cycling will negatively impact your comfort and your monthly utility bills. It puts additional stress on your HVAC equipment, potentially lowering its lifespan.

Types of HVAC Filters

One of the most inexpensive and widely used filter types is a fiberglass filter. You’ll have no problem finding these filters at your local grocery and home improvement stores. While they don’t cost much and boast excellent airflow, they’re not ideal if you have high air quality requirements. Fiberglass filters are only suited to handling larger particulates like dust and hair. They also need to be frequently changed and usually aren’t environmentally friendly.

A pleated filter has a unique accordion folding style, which increases its surface area. This makes it easier for the filter to capture more contaminants. Modern pleated options are made with sustainable materials and tend to last longer than fiberglass options. They also cost a little more but make up for it with their improved lifespans.

If you’re looking for ways to lower your environmental impact, you can invest in washable electrostatic filters. These modern options are most common in mini-splits and window AC units. Rather than needing to be replaced, you’ll instead have to wash them about once a month. They need to be fully dried before placing them back in the system. The washing process is simple and easy and saves you from having to frequently invest in new disposable filters. While these electrostatic filters offer many cost benefits, they’re not as effective at trapping smaller debris.

Finally, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are the best choice for households with severe allergies or respiratory conditions. These filters can capture up to 99.97% of all airborne debris, bacteria and allergens larger than 0.3 microns. They promise superior filtration and indoor air quality year-round. It’s important to note that not every HVAC system can handle a HEPA filter. This type of filter can inadvertently restrict airflow and cause harm to your equipment. Fortunately, even if you don’t have a compatible HVAC system, you can still consider a whole-home HEPA air purifier.

MERV Rating

Don’t forget to take note of your HVAC filter’s minimum efficiency reporting value or MERV rating. This rating determines your filter’s overall effectiveness in catching pollutants. The scale ranges from one to 20, with a higher score indicating better efficiency.

Low MERV ratings between one and four are common in window AC units. This type of filter can take care of dust, pollen and carpet fibers. It’s suited to capturing debris that’s larger than 10 microns in size. The average household will have an HVAC filter with a rating between five and eight. This stronger filter can control mold spores, concrete dust, lint and dander.

For above-average indoor air quality, you’ll want to opt for a MERV rating between nine and 12. You can depend on this high-quality filter to handle particulates down to 1 micron in size. Filters with MERV ratings above 13 are typically only used in hospitals or specialized manufacturing facilities.

Factors That Impact Filter Usage

When you get a new filter, check its manufacturer guidelines for replacement schedule recommendations. Lower-quality filters, like fiberglass or washable options, will generally only last about a month. Pleated varieties may protect your air quality for up to three months. However, certain factors in and around your home can change your filter’s lifespan.

For example, your local air quality will affect how often your filter fills up. If you live in a city or thriving suburban area, you may have to deal with dust, smoke and smog. These gases and debris can seep inside over time, clogging your filter faster than normal. Wildfire smoke can also prove hazardous to your air quality.

Be sure to consider your loved ones’ allergies. Opting for a higher-quality filter and a more strict replacement schedule will limit the pollen, spores, pet hair and dander in your home. The more indoor airborne allergens, the more likely your family will experience sneezing, coughing and other cold symptoms. Boosting your air quality can benefit your household’s short- and long-term comfort and health.

Most Americans live with at least one animal companion. Unfortunately, furry pets like cats and dogs are rife with allergens. They can release hair and skin cells that irritate your sinuses and clog your HVAC filters. Additionally, animals that regularly travel outdoors will track in mold, insects and other debris. Even if you only have one pet in your home, you should check your filter monthly.

Moreover, family houses with several children and adults need more filter changes than a seldom-used vacation property. Children also tend to be more sensitive to air quality changes and allergens like dust and spores. If you live with kids, you may want to opt for pleated filters. On the other hand, small households with no pets or children often have no issue following the standard manufacturer guidelines.

Other considerations that impact filter usage include the size of your home and the season. You can always check the condition of your current filter with a visual inspection. A clean filter will be white and translucent if you hold it up to a light. Dirty filters, however, can be brown or black and contain visible debris. If you’re struggling to find the right filter type or replacement schedule for your home, bring in a technician for an expert HVAC inspection.

Skilled Home Services Company

For trustworthy and highly rated HVAC service, trust Bacon Plumbing Heating Air Electric in Rockwall, TX. Our family-owned business has served the Dallas/Fort Worth area since 2011. Let our experienced team repair and maintain your residential heating and cooling systems. We also offer indoor air quality solutions, thermostat installations and ductwork upgrades. Contact Bacon Plumbing Heating Air Electric now to learn more about our HVAC filter services in Rockwall.

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