How often should I change my furnace or ductless air filter?
The general rule is to change your furnace filter every three months. With ductless systems, you should clean the filter every two weeks. They aren’t disposable, so you’re not buying one or two a month. However, three reasons to change or clean your air filter more often than that are:
You run your furnace or AC more than usual
You have pets, allergies, or track in a lot of dirt
You’ve been noticing problems with your HVAC system.
The air filter, or screen, in your HVAC system is responsible for preventing dust, dirt, and debris from getting into the system. Too much of that will gum up the works and cause a problem. But, not replacing that screen isn’t a good idea, either. When the screen gets clogged, air can’t pass through it. Then, the restricted airflow will cause your system to not work nearly as well. We mentioned three months as the average lifespan for a filter. Now, let’s look at some reasons to replace it more often. We’ll also look at ductless systems: How they’re different, and some specific issues you may encounter.
HVAC systems in Rochester, NY, and upstate in general get a lot more use in the colder months than places further south. And, if you have forced-air heat, the same screen your furnace uses also handles the AC. Consider replacing the screen mid-season as well as the beginning and end of winter. Otherwise, you run the risk of it getting clogged, and bringing down the indoor air quality in your home. When that happens, you’ll get less air coming through your vents. And, the system will have to work extra hard to push air past all the debris.
Indoor air quality and how it affects people also plays a role in how often to replace the screen. Remember, what it’s doing is trapping all sorts of dust, debris, and other contaminants as they pass through your ducts. This keeps them from gumming up your HVAC system. It also prevents that stuff from circulating into the air you breathe.
Indoor air quality
Indoor air quality is especially important for people with seasonal allergies, asthma, or other respiratory problems. They rely on that filter working properly to help keep the air clean. Meanwhile, the screen will also get blocked up faster if there’s a lot more dirt and debris in the house. And, that doesn’t just happen because someone’s messy. In fact, just having pets makes a big difference. Fur and dander make their way into vents and eventually the filter. The more of it there is, the quicker the screen gets clogged. If you have pets or are the outdoorsy type that tracks in a lot of dirt, then consider changing your filter more often. And, keep it clear if people have any respiratory issues.
Problems with your HVAC system
We mentioned a few things that can go wrong when the screen is clogged. Well, if you’re noticing them while your air conditioning or furnace is running, then that’s a good place to start troubleshooting. Once that filter is blocked up, you may start noticing issues. Maybe the system suddenly isn’t keeping you as cool or as warm as it used to. Or, your energy bills just went up, even though the temperature has been about the same. The truth is, these things can happen for several reasons. But, a blocked screen is the simplest - and least expensive - cause. That makes it the best place to start troubleshooting. Pull out the filter. Is it filled with dust? If so, pop in a new one and see if that makes a difference. If it does, then you just saved yourself a visit from your HVAC company.
How do I know what size air filter to buy?
If you have a brand-new heating or cooling system, check the manual. That will tell you what size air filter to get. If not, just pull out the filter that’s in there. It should have the dimensions - length, width, and depth - printed right on it. From there, it’s just a quick stop to a hardware store to get a new one. Most are right around $10-$20. The more expensive ones are specialty products. And, replacing it is even easier. They’re not fastened in or hard to reach. Simply slide the old one out of its container and slide in the new one.
How do I clean my ductless air handler filter?
So far, we’ve gone over traditional furnaces and central air with ductwork. But, ductless systems use air filters, too. And, they need attention as well. The most popular ductless mini splits offer both heating and cooling. As a result, many people use the air handlers most of the year. So, the screens need more attention. In this case, you need to take care of the filter at least once a month. But, you usually don’t need to replace them. Instead, a quick cleaning will do. To do this, start by turning off the air handler. Then, open the panel on the air handler and gently lift the filter and pull it out. From there, you need to hand wash it gently to remove all the debris. Then, put it back, close the panel, and power it back up. However, you’ll want to make sure you clean and dry it properly.
Prevent mold in your ductless air handler
Unfortunately, it’s possible for mold to start growing inside your ductless air handler if you’re not careful. But, it’s an easy problem to prevent if you know what you’re doing. And, it’s easy to get rid of if you catch it early. The most important thing is to make sure the filter is dry when you put it back in. Remember, mold thrives in dark, moist places. Adding moisture to the inside of an air handler makes it a breeding ground. It’s worth noting there are other ways mold can grow inside the air handler. The most common way is by turning off the air handler when you think the temperature is where you want it. That’s when the system is running in a low-power mode. It’s maintaining the temperature and also getting rid of moisture. When you turn it off too early, that moisture remains in the air handler. If it stays there too long, it can allow mold to grow.
Regular maintenance and air filters
The good news is that you don’t need to pay for a professional to change your air filters. But, that doesn’t mean you should shirk regular maintenance completely. It’s still an excellent idea to have a tech look over your HVAC system twice a year: Once before you start using the air conditioner, and again before firing up the heater. In the case of ductless, they’ll spot any mold issues before they get out of control - along with any other problems, of course. And, in general, you’ll reduce the risk of a costly breakdown during the peak seasons. After all, that’s when your equipment is most likely to fail - and when it could take the longest to fix. So, start keeping your heating and cooling system in great shape by tending to the filters regularly. And, be sure to have the system checked every year to make sure it’s running properly. Keeping your air conditioner and heater in great shape starts with the filters. Regular maintenance is a great way to extend the life of your system and keep your energy bills down.
Call Airquip in Rochester, NY at (585) 641-3080 to find out how we can help keep cool all summer and warm all winter.