For the most part, heating and air conditioning systems work fine on their own. You should have them checked out a few times a year to make sure everything’s working ok. After that, it’s just a matter of dialing in the thermostat and enjoying the climate control. 

However, with just a little work, you can save a few bucks on energy bills, head off costly repairs and maybe even relieve some allergy symptoms. All you have to do is change the air filter on your HVAC system. It’s usually really easy: just find the air filter, slide it out and put in a new one. There’s nothing to take apart, and new ones cost around $10 - $20 each. The only question is, how often should you change it?

Technically, you can never change it too often. The HVAC air filter blocks dust, dirt, allergens and even mold spores from entering your system. This also helps keep the components working properly without those little bits gumming up the works.

Once a filter is “full,” however, it starts blocking air flow, making the parts in your HVAC system work harder for the same results. This can mean higher energy bills as it needs more resources to maintain, and broken parts when they’re overworked for too long. A full filter also begins to let all those particles it’s supposed to block pass through, and back into the house, and the air you are breathing!

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So, as long you have a clear air filter, you should have a clean-working machine. But, there’s no reason to overdo it and spend way more time and money than is necessary. Here’s how to figure out how often you should change the HVAC air filter in your home...

How Often Do You Use Your Heating or Air Conditioning?

A general rule of thumb is to change your HVAC air filter every three months. However, if you use your system a lot, the filter gets full quicker than that. In those instances, you’ll want to try to changing it once every month instead.

How often you use your HVAC system can vary based on where you are in the country, or even what kind of house you have. People in places like New Jersey and Pennsylvania don’t need their heaters on as long as, say, someone in North Dakota or Minnesotta. Nor would they use their air conditioners nearly as much in cities like  Phoenix, AZ or Miami, FL, which boast the hottest year-round temperatures in the US.

Meanwhile, Twins or row homes, for instance, trap heat better than single-family houses. The amount of insulation, if any, in your home also affects how much and how often you’re using your furnace.

No matter where you live, you’ll want to change your filter every month if you run your unit for six months or more a year.

Who — or what — is in your home?

If you’ve got a large family, or a bunch of pets, or both, you’ll probably need to change your HVAC air filter than someone who’s single or at least animal-free. People and pets affect the air quality in any home — and the more there are, the worse it can be.

Animals produce dander: tiny, often microscopic bits of skin, fur or feathers. These allergens can trigger allergic reactions and make breathing difficult for people with asthma. Dusting and cleaning helps a lot, and so does your HVAC filter, which traps dander as it circulates through the air. People can also cause similar problems. Everyone tracks in dirt and kicks up dust, and the more people doing it, the more there is in the house. It all passes through that filter, and the air quality gets even worse if people smoke in the house or use fireplaces.

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There’s no set formula of how often to change the HVAC filter based on the number of people or pets in the home. But, if it seems like you need to clean or dust more often than other people, you may want to change the filter every month instead of every quarter.

Are you noticing problems with your HVAC system?

Of course, if you notice something wrong, there’s no reason to wait a few weeks or months to change your HVAC air filter. Sometimes it’s clogged, or broken, or there is just more junk in the air that filled it faster than usual. Fortunately, the signs can be pretty obvious if you know what you’re looking for. And, checking them is as easy as sliding out the filter if you think something’s wrong.

If the air filter is clogged, for instance, you may notice your air conditioner suddenly not cooling the home as well anymore. That’s because the obstruction is blocking the airflow, preventing the cool air from circulating. The opposite happens when the heater’s on: the house stays cool. That’s because when the hot air gets trapped due to a clogged filter, the heat exchanger overheats and shuts off before the house warms up.

In these cases, the air filter may not be the problem, but it’s an easy first spot to troubleshoot. And, if the problem is the HVAC air filter, changing it early can prevent broken parts, that cost more to repair, down the line.If it's not, be sure to call a professional, like the ones here at Airquip!

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