If you have any sort of forced air system in your home, including a central air conditioner or forced hot air heat, then you almost certainly also have an air filter in that system that needs to be changed fairly regularly. There are actually lots of regular things you should do to maintain your air conditioner, but changing your home’s filters when they are dirty is probably one of the most important.
You can see the clean air filter and the dirty air filter which was only used for three months. I order my replacement filters online.
Most filters are pretty simple in design: they let air flow through them while they filter back (or stop) most dust and dirt particles from being blown back out of your vents. A central AC or forced air heating system actually sucks air and dust in through return vents (these are usually larger vents that are found high up on walls) and then filters the air, cools or heats the air, and then blows it back out through your floor or wall vents at just the right temperature.
If that filter gets blocked up with dirt and dust then the whole system has to work harder just to push the air through that filter and into the rest of your home. A dirty $10 air filter can actually be responsible for destroying a $2,500 air conditioner. If you don’t change the filter regularly in your home then you run the risk of actually burning out your entire system.
Think of this example: Have you ever been using a vacuum cleaner hose when you suddenly hit a large piece of paper or a curtain? The whole piece of paper gets stuck on the hose, pretty much stopping most of the air flowing into your vacuum. And when that happens your vacuum cleaner probably gets much louder as the motor inside works much harder to getting enough air. When that happens your vacuum is also using more electricity. If you let it go long enough you’ll more than likely burn out your vacuum cleaner motor or at least break a few belts. The same can happen with your home’s air system.
How To Replace The Air Filter In Your Home
Here’s a video of the whole process of changing out an old air filter with a new one. Full text instructions are below the video.
1. Turn off the Heat or Air Conditioner: You’ll probably want to make sure your heating or cooling system is off before you go poking around in your basement, attic or crawl space. Don’t worry, it generally doesn’t take long to replace an air filter, so your home won’t be without heat or cooling for very long. You can simply turn your system off at the thermostat if you wish, though you may also want to turn things off at the breaker if you want to be extra careful.
You can replace most whole house air filters by sliding out the old filter and sliding in the new one.
2. Remove the Old Air Filter: The air filter compartment is usually located near the main furnace or air conditioner inside the house. Sometimes the filter is located inside the blower unit and sometimes it is located outside of it. Sometimes the compartment is labeled and it usually has a latch system to keep it closed tight.
3. Check the Air Filter: Once you’ve located where the air filter is you’ll want to double-check it for a couple things. First, make sure that it’s the right size and has a snug fit in the compartment or tray that’s meant to hold it in place. A loose fit will allow dusty air to blow around it and back into your home. Second, you may want to take a note of the size just so you can order more. I personally order four air filters once a year online. Ordering air filters through Amazon.com works out to be a little cheaper for me than buying them from a big hardware store, even with the shipping costs. And I don’t have to worry about running out (unless I forget to order them next year). Lastly, you’ll want to take note of how dirty your old house air filter is. If it’s positively covered in grey dust and fuzz then that means you might need to change your air filter more often.
4. Install the New Air Filter: Hopefully you have a new correct sized air filter ready to go. You just slide that in, but you’ll want to watch to make sure the filter is going in the proper way. Filters are designed for air to flow in one side and out the other. The filters I order have little arrows on them, but some aren’t so clear. You’ll want to face the “air flows out” side facing towards the heating or cooling element of your system. Again, make sure that it fits in snug so no air can flow around the filter.
You may also want to take a pen or marker and just put today’s date on the edge of the filter that faces out. That will remind you of when the filter was last changed.
5. Close and Test: Now you can close the air filter compartment or furnace back up and turn on the breaker and thermostat. Give your system a few minutes to start up and everything should now be working well. You may want to listen closely to your heat or air conditioning for a few minutes just to make sure everything is working well. It should not be any louder or working any harder than before.
Most manufacturers recommend that you change or replace your house air filter four times a year, though you may want to do it more if you live in a dusty area or you’re having any sort of major renovation or construction done to your home. Only replacing the air filter twice a year or every six months is almost never enough from my experience.
Some people replace their air filters more often during the summer time and less often in the spring and fall. I generally stick with the four times a year method and my filters are usually dirty, but not completely covered. As long as you regularly replace your whole house filter you should really never have to use any sort of duct cleaning service unless you’ve had major construction or remodeling done to your home.
It’s not difficult to change your home’s air filter and it’s one of those quick jobs that can literally leave you and your family breathing easier (sorry, couldn’t resist!).