The air filter in your HVAC system is a small and yet essential part of your cooling and heating equipment. Many people believe that their air filter is only needed to trap airborne particulates and make their indoor air cleaner. This is only partially true, a clean and clear air filter will make the air circulating through your home cleaner, but it has a secondary and far more important function. Let’s take a closer look at four reasons why you need to keep your air filter clean.
- Protecting Your HVAC System from Damage
The HVAC system installed in your home is designed to draw in a certain amount of air every time it carries out a heating or cooling cycle. The air needs to flow into the system and when this airflow is reduced or interrupted it can cause damage. Your HVAC system is a complex piece of equipment with electrical, electronic and moving mechanical parts. When there isn’t a sufficient amount of airflow, these components have to work far harder than necessary. This introduces additional wear and tear on your system, and this will lead to one or more components failing. If you’re lucky, the affected parts can be repaired, but it’s more likely that the damaged components will need replacement.
When a component fails, it’s not unusual that other components will start to fail shortly after. Imagine your HVAC system as a car; associated parts are affected when a component fails, as an example: when the brake pads fail, and they are not replaced it’s not unusual for the brake calipers to fail shortly after. This is inconvenient; it’s not a coincidence that an HVAC system always seems to fail when you need it most. If the exterior temperatures are soaring, the air conditioning will need to work extra hard, and if it’s already under additional strain from a blocked air filter and broken parts, it will cause the system to fail.
Inspecting and replacing the air filters in your HVAC system doesn’t take long and it requires no special skills, tools or knowledge. The exact details will be clearly detailed in the owner’s manual for your equipment and if you’ve misplaced it check online for a downloadable pdf copy. HVAC experts recommend that the air filter is checked at least once per month and if you have pets it may be a good idea to do this more often. When you remove a blocked air filter, you will see that the surface is covered with materials, such as dust, debris, skin cells and matted hair. The material will block the airflow into your system, and it can cause damage, but it will also lower the indoor air quality in your home.
The exact air filter that you need for your HVAC system will be detailed in the owner’s manual. It’s important to get the correct size; if the air filter is too small, the air will pass round it, and if it’s too large it may not fit. Every air filter has a Minimum Energy Efficiency Rating (MERV) that will indicate how effective it is at cleaning the air passing through it. The highest MERV air filters are used to clean air in laboratories and clinical facilities, and they are designed to make the air extremely clean.
The higher the MERV, the smaller the pores and the harder it is to push the air through the filter. Most residential air filters have a MERV from 7-12, and this will be adequate for homes where the occupants may have allergies or respiratory illnesses. It may be tempting to buy an air filter with a MERV higher than 12, but residential HVAC equipment is not powerful enough to force the air through the filter. If the MERV is too high for your HVAC equipment, this will also reduce the airflow into your system.
Air filters can be found at many stores these days and if you cannot find the right one to suit your equipment shop online for them. When you purchase your air filters consider buying them in bulk because you can save a lot of money on each filter. If you regularly change the air filters in your HVAC system, it will run more efficiently, and the components will be better protected.
- Reducing Your Energy Bills
As we mentioned above, the energy efficiency of your HVAC equipment will be compromised when the air filter is dirty. Inside your air conditioning system, there is a blower fan that’s used to push the treated air throughout your home via the duct system. When the airflow is insufficient, the blower fan will work harder to compensate in order to get enough air flowing. When the blower fan works harder for a longer period of time, this will drive up your energy bills for no performance gains. So, if you change your air filter regularly, you may notice that your energy bills are lowered.
- Avoiding an Air Conditioner Leak
Many people believe that their air conditioner works by cooling down their homes. This isn’t true; the heat is actually removed from the home; this is an important and subtle difference. The refrigerant circulates throughout the system under pressure, this absorbs heat in the home, moves it outside and then the process continues. When the air filter is clogged, the warm is limited, and this can result in the coil freezing. When the coil thaws, it can cause a water leak that could result in structural damage in your home. A frozen coil in the exterior unit is a sign that there is a problem, but if the air filter is changed regularly many of these issues can be prevented.
- A Less Comfortable Home
When you invest in an HVAC system for your home, it’s a significant investment in your indoor comfort levels. The air filter may seem like a very small part of your system, but as you’ve seen it’s essential to keep your system working efficiently. A clean air filter will allow the treated air to circulate throughout your home making it more comfortable. If you have any cold or hot spots in your home or the thermostat never seems to match the temperature, a blocked air filter may be the cause.