The last thing anyone wants is an air conditioner that stops working when the summer heat rises. If you notice that your HVAC system doesn’t seem to be cooling your home, it’s natural to be concerned. But, in many cases, a simple filter change is all that’s required to get your system working again. In this article, we will examine the importance of HVAC air filters and a set of steps you can take to change them yourself.
What is the Purpose of HVAC Filters?
Many people believe that the primary purpose of an HVAC filter is to clean the air in their homes. To a certain extent, this is true, but this is a secondary advantage, and it’s not as efficient as a dedicated air purification system. The main function of an HVAC filter is to remove particulates that could cause damage to the HVAC system. There are sensitive components in the system that can be damaged if they get too dirty or dusty. Another reason for the filter is to ensure a steady supply of air to keep the HVAC system running efficiently. When the filter becomes clogged, the air cannot move through easily, and the HVAC system will work harder to compensate. This can have a couple of detrimental effects. Firstly overworked equipment is more likely to overheat, leading to an expensive repair bill. Secondly, when heating and cooling equipment is overworked, it uses more energy, and this drives up your utility bills. So, although HVAC filters are a small and simple component in your system, they have a vital role to play.
4 Types of HVAC Filters Explained
There are four main types of HVAC filters used in heating and cooling systems. If you want to keep your system running efficiently, it’s important to understand the differences:
- Pleated Filters
This type of HVAC filter traps around 35-40% of indoor air particulates. A pleated filter is measured by the fiber per square inch, and a higher ratio of fiber makes it more effective. A pleated HVAC filter needs to be changed every six weeks.
- Mechanical Filters
There are two types of mechanical filters. They are fiberglass and charcoal. A fiberglass filter is available with a 1” or 2” thickness, and they are more affordable. A charcoal filter is more expensive, but they are superior to fiberglass when it comes to removing airborne particulates. Both types of mechanical HVAC filters need to be changed once per month.
- High Efficiency Pleated
This is a subcategory of pleated HVAC filters that are designed to filter out more than 90% of dust. They come as 4” or 5” models, and they are installed between the return box and furnace. A high efficiency pleated filter doesn’t need much maintenance, but they need to be replaced annually.
- Electrostatic or Electronic
These HVAC filters are the most expensive option, but they are very effective at removing small particulates from the air. They use electricity to trap particles, and they need to be replaced every three months.
The HVAC filter changing times are subject to some latitude if you have pets in your home. Pet hair is one of the most common materials to clog up an air filter, and you may need to change it more frequently.
5 Steps to Change the HVAC Filter
Check the owner’s manual for your HVAC system, and it will tell you which filter type you need and where it’s located. If you’ve misplaced your manual, check online, most manufacturers have a free pdf version available for download. Once you have your owner’s manual handy and the replacement filter, follow these five steps in order.
Step 1: Shut-off the HVAC System
When you’re changing the filter, you don’t want air moving through the system. This could cause damage and make the filter change harder.
Step 2: Located the HVAC Filter
Every HVAC system will have the filter in a slightly different location. Some systems are easier to find than others, but this will always be detailed in the owner’s manual. If you’re struggling to find it look under the return-air register on the wall, or it may be under a door located between the furnace and distribution box.
Step 3: Remove the Cover
The filter housing is protected by a cover, remove the screws, keep them in a safe place and take the cover off. This is a good time to clean the inside of the cover, which is probably covered in a coating of dust. Vacuum the cover and if it’s dirty, wash it in soap water and dry it thoroughly with an old towel.
Step 4: Remove the Filthy Filter
If you have a trash bag with you, place the dirty filter inside because you don’t want to move it through your home, spreading more dust. If you have a washable filter, put it in a bag, take it outside, clean it with an outside tap and allow it to dry thoroughly.
Step 5: Install the Fresh Filter
Every HVAC filter has a set of arrows that helps you to align it correctly into the system. If you place the filter incorrectly, it won’t work correctly, and dust will enter the air and your home. Use the arrows as your guide and slide the filter into the slot. It’s a good idea to write down the replacement date on the filter if you have space. Put the same date on a calendar or in your phone, and you will know when the next filter change is needed. Once the filter is in place, put the cover back, screw it in place and turn the HVAC system on.
Consider a Monthly Check
Although some of the filter types that we’ve mentioned above don’t need a monthly replacement, it’s a good idea to check them monthly. Local conditions can change quickly, and this can affect the cleanliness and performance of your HVAC filter. Even local building work can lead to a buildup of dust and debris that you’re not expecting.
If you have any problems with your HVAC system or want to schedule some maintenance, contact your local certified specialist today.