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The Best Schedule for Changing Your Furnace Filters


If you’ve ever waited too long to change the furnace filter in your Harker Heights, Texas home, you were probably greeted by a burnt, dusty smell when your heater turned on. Not only is a dirty filter a major indoor air quality (IAQ) issue, but it’s also a problem that can shorten the lifespan of your heating equipment. To avoid serious trouble, it’s important to establish a filter change schedule that reflects both the needs of your furnace and the nuances of your living environment.

Why Filter Changes Are So Important

Contrary to popular belief, the top priority of HVAC air filters isn’t protecting human health. Instead, these components are largely designed to protect HVAC units. They prevent airborne particulates from coating the sensitive interior components of heating and cooling equipment. They also ensure that build-ups of dirt, dust, lint, and other materials don’t cause airflow issues. By keeping your HVAC air filters fresh, you can avoid a host of common problems, ensure consistent performance, and enjoy your furnace a lot longer.

All HVAC air filters have their limits. There is only so much debris that these units can collect before existing accumulations start breaking off. This is how IAQs decline and how HVAC ductwork, air vents, and grilles get excessively dirty. When airflow is impeded by a dirty air filter for too long, furnaces can overheat and stop working entirely. Moreover, given that clogged filters cause HVAC equipment to work harder than normal, these components can also result in higher-than-average home energy bills.

General Recommendations for HVAC Air Filter Changes

Your furnace likely came with a standard air filter. The recommendations for changing this component can be found in your owner’s manual or on the furnace manufacturer’s website. You’ll also find information on where to locate your filter and how to safely remove and replace it.

For most furnaces and most furnace filter types, filter replacements should be performed about once every three months. However, if you’ve upgraded your furnace filter or if you have integrated HVAC accessories, you may need to refer to the recommendations for replacing this component that have been issued by the upgraded filter’s manufacturer or by the manufacturer of your HVAC system accessories. When in doubt, ask a trusted HVAC company to help you set a needs-specific filter change schedule for your home.

How MERV Ratings Affect the Frequency of Filter Changes

Maximum efficiency reporting value (MERV) ratings denote the strength or overall effectiveness of HVAC air filters. These ratings run from 1 to 20, however, most residential HVAC systems have filters with MERV ratings that range from six through 12. Filters rated 17 or higher are typically only used in clean rooms, clinical settings, and industrial environments.

If you’ve upgraded the filter in your furnace, you’ll likely need to change this component more often. Higher-rated filters are denser than filters with relatively low ratings. As such, they block more particulates and collect more debris within in shorter periods of time. Small-sized contaminants that pass through standard filters are caught and retained by these options. If your filter is rated 10 or higher, consider changing it once every one to two months rather than once every three months.

Pleated Filters vs. Flat Filters

It’s also important to consider the basic construct of your furnace filter. Flat filters have a wider-seeming surface than pleated filters do, but they also have less overall surface area. Because of this difference, most low-cost, flat filters are designed to be changed once every three to four weeks.

Household-Specific Factors That Affect Filter Changes

All homeowners should account for the nature of their living environments when establishing their filter change schedules. Suppose you have a naturally low IAQ due to indoor smoking, multiple inside pets, or a generally dusty building interior. In that case, you can expect your filter to become coated and dirty far more quickly than normal. For homes with multiple IAQ concerns, it’s important to change HVAC air filters out about once a month. This is also true if you:

  • Live near a busy freeway
  • Live near active construction
  • Live by an airport
  • Have yet to landscape your backyard

You should additionally check and change your furnace filter monthly if you use your heater frequently throughout the winter season. For instance, if your heater runs both day and night during the cold season, don’t let several months go by before inspecting this component and replacing it as needed.

Since 1997, Kane Heating And Air Conditioning has been proudly serving residents of Harker Heights, Texas and the surrounding areas. We offer HVAC installation, maintenance, and repairs. We also provide indoor air quality services, attic insulation, and air balancing. Get in touch with us today!

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