Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC) helps make your home healthy and comfortable. But it can’t do its job efficiency without a clean air filter.
On average, indoor air has two to five times more pollutants than the air outside. The filter removes dust, allergens, and other airborne contaminants from the air before the system circulates it throughout the house. As the filter becomes clogged with debris, it blocks the free flow of air to the system, which reduces the efficiency of your furnace or air conditioning system. Not only does this drive up heating and cooling costs, it makes the air inside your home less clean and healthy.
HVAC experts recommend cleaning or replacing the filter at least once per season, or three times a year. Here’s how you can do this simple maintenance routine yourself.
Step 1: Find the Filter
Depending on the type of HVAC system you have, you can find the filter in one of three places:
- Window air conditioners have the filter directly behind the place where cool air comes out.
- Central air systems usually have the filter behind the main vent that releases cool air. It’s often located near the thermostat.
- Furnace or air handler filters are found in a slot behind a metal or plastic housing in the unit itself.
Step 2: Turn it Off
Before you remove the panel or grille covering the filter, turn off power to the system for your safety. You should never touch the filter while there is air flowing through it.
Step 3: Identify the Filter
Once you’ve found it, examine the filter to determine what kind of product you’re dealing with. Different systems use different sizes and types of filter, so you need to identify it before you can replace it. Write down the brand of filter, along with other identifying information on the frame, and measure it for size.
- Fiberglass filters are common in older systems. They have a large frame that looks like a window screen. Depending on the season and the size of your home, you may need to replace it as often as every month.
- Pleated filters are one-inch wide, rectangular units. Replace it every three months.
- Media filters look like pleated filters, but are three to four inches wide. They don’t need to be replaced as often as pleated filters, but be sure to check it out every three to six months.
Step 4: Remove and Replace
Slide out the old filter along its tracks and immediately dispose of it in an outdoor garbage bag. Don’t leave it sitting in your regular garbage, as the dust can fall out and re-enter the air. Next, you can slide the new filter into place, paying attention to the arrows that indicate which side to put in first.
Step 5: Close it Up
Re-attach the protective grille or casing that keeps the filter safe inside the unit. At this point, you can turn the system back on.