The air in your home is circulated multiple times each day through the air filter. All the airborne debris in the air is deposited in this location to prevent the passage through sensitive components in the system. Continued airflow is required for performance and energy efficiency and degraded airflow can damage the HVAC system. The air filter is an inexpensive and critical component that many homeowners forget about. In this article, we will look at four clear signs that you need to change your HVAC air filter.

1.  Accumulated Dust and Dirt

The air filter is easy to access, and the full instructions on the location and how to remove it are detailed in the owner’s manual. When you remove the air filter from the housing, it will probably be covered with a layer of dust and dirt. This is especially true if you can’t remember when you last checked or cleaned the air filter or you’ve never completed this essential task. When people move into a new home, they tend to forget about the HVAC system and it’s likely that it’s clogged with dust. When the filter membrane cannot be seen and the dirt is fully covering the surface, this is a sure sign that a replacement is long overdue.

A dirty filter can lead to a host of HVAC system issues from frequent repairs to dirty ductwork and much more. When the airflow is impeded, the HVAC system needs to work harder to compensate and this has three consequences. First, the performance is lowered because the indoor coil is compromised and the indoor air quality (IAQ) is lowered. Second, the HVAC system must work harder to compensate for the lack of cooling performance and this drives up the energy bills. Finally, the additional strain on the compressor and other components can cause them to fail which can lead to an expensive repair bill.

2.  Increased Asthma and Allergy Attack Frequency

The primary purpose of an HVAC air filter is to protect sensitive components that can be damaged by airborne dust and dirt particulates. But, even a standard air filter will remove certain contaminants and this will improve the indoor air quality (IAQ). Making a switch to a high-efficiency HEPA air filter will be a significant improvement if your system is compatible. When the air filter is dirty, the first people to notice are those with asthma, allergies, and pre-existing respiratory illnesses.

According to the EPA, most homes have more polluted air indoors than the condition of the air outside. Allergens can accumulate significantly over time and this can lead to coughing, sneezing, headaches, and a stuffy feeling that seems to permeate the entire home. If these symptoms sound familiar, it’s time to check the air filter and change it to alleviate the problems. It’s also worth noting that contaminants can be pulled into the system via cracks and holes in the ductwork. Replacing the air filter every 30-60 days can help and you may want to schedule an inspection for your ductwork and some professional duct cleaning.

3.  A Moldy or Musty Smell

If you notice a moldy or musty odor in your home, the source may lie in your HVAC air filter. Pet owners may notice that their furry friends tend to shed more hair in the summer months to keep them cool and comfortable. Both cats and dogs have associated odors that can be strong and may become musty over time. These odors are trapped with the shed hair that’s carried into the air filter. Another cause of these smells is the growth of mold and mildew that can be trapped in the air filter. This is bacterial in nature and the bacteria will circulate throughout the home until the air filter is replaced.

4.  Your Air Filter Requirements Have Changed

Many people simply select the least expensive HVAC air filter to use in their system. But, it’s important to understand that air filters can vary a great deal in quality. The type of materials and the thickness of the filtration media can have a huge impact on the performance. IAQ properties and more. If you opt for a cheaper air filter, it will need to be replaced more frequently and this negates some if not all of the savings made. The cheapest air filters are fiberglass units that don’t remove many particulates from the incoming air.

The next step up in terms of price, quality and durability are the pleated air filters that are designed to have a larger surface area to capture more dust and air. These are an improvement over the cheapest models but they don’t do a great job at removing most particulates.

The best choices are HEPA filters that can remove many smaller particulates and all the allergens from your indoor air. But, the dense structure of these air filters will restrict the airflow which can drive up your energy bill. This is a significant tradeoff and if you have allergy sufferers in your home it may be a good idea to ask your local HVAC specialist about air purification systems.

In Conclusion

The air filter may seem like an inexpensive component that’s easy to ignore. But, this is a vital component that can boost performance, improve energy efficiency and protect your HVAC system against damage. It’s easy to check the condition of the air filter and if you cannot remember the last time this was checked, it’s a good idea to do it now. The full instructions for a filter change are detailed in the owners’ manual. If the manual has been lost or misplaced, it should be possible to get a free pdf copy online.

The HVAC air filter should be inspected and changed every 30-60 days or more frequently if you have pets in the home. When you change the air filter, make sure that the replacement unit is the same size and this is printed on the rim for easy reference. If you want to schedule maintenance for your HVAC system or you want to learn more about air purification, contact your local heating and cooling specialist today.