In 2020, around 3.2 million deaths were caused by household air pollution. This figure includes 237,000 deaths of children aged five and below. This data is just as relevant today, as many homeowners take actionable solutions to improve indoor air quality and prevent household air pollution exposure.
One of the most crucial components of your home—which maintains indoor air quality—is the furnace filter. Knowing when and how often you should replace this filter is essential to minimize health risks related to poor indoor air quality.
The Importance of Replacing Your Furnace Filter
Furnace filters can be pleated or non-pleated—pleated filters have pliable materials like paper, cotton, and polyester, while non-pleated filters have fiberglass or other electrostatic materials. These filters protect your furnace by trapping airborne contaminants like hair, mold, dust, dirt, and other allergens.
Whichever type you have, replacing your furnace filter is essential for the following reasons:
To prevent clogging
Clogging prevents your furnace filter from working efficiently, affecting the heating and cooling systems. As it accumulates dirt over time, it forces the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning control (HVAC) to exert more effort in circulating indoor air. This increased workload can strain the system, reducing your filter’s performance.
Regularly replacing your furnace filter helps prevent this issue. When your filter is clean, the air passes smoothly, helping minimize the strain on your HVAC unit. It also ensures your filter functions efficiently.
To improve indoor air quality
When your furnace filter is clogged, trapped air contaminants circulate throughout your home, exposing you to allergens and other particles that may cause respiratory issues. Prolonged exposure, particularly for loved ones with allergies and existing respiratory conditions, can worsen their symptoms.
Thus, regularly changing your furnace filter helps ensure healthy indoor air quality. Not only does this prevent allergies and respiratory problems from worsening, but it also contributes to a fresher and more comfortable living environment.
To regulate indoor temperature
A new, clean furnace filter helps produce the right amount of warm and cool air. This smooth air circulation helps regulate indoor temperature efficiently, maintaining comfort and air consistency throughout the changing seasons.
This way, you can minimize the shivers during the cold season and keep yourself cool during warm seasons, improving your and your loved ones’ thermal comfort.
To extend your furnace filter’s usability
Since a clogged furnace filter can strain your HVAC unit, it may result in overheating. Overheating can damage your furnace’s internal components and trigger safety shutdowns, resulting in inconsistent air circulation. At the same time, it can be a fire hazard. These effects can reduce your furnace filter’s lifespan. Regular replacements help extend your furnace filter’s usability so you can use it for as long as possible. Moreover, your HVAC unit won’t have to exert more effort because there’s no room for air contaminants to accumulate.
To avoid outlandish repair and maintenance costs
Furnace filter repairs can be as costly as buying new ones. Examples of the most common repair issues include incorrect temperature control, high electric bills, foul odors, and weird noises. Most of the time, these problems are only caused by dirty furnace filters. Regular replacements help prevent these unnecessary problems that require outlandish costs. They can also mitigate a minor issue before it worsens. Not only does this avoid expensive repairs, but it also lessens the frequency of going to repair shops.
To reduce energy costs
Strained furnace filters consume higher energy, resulting in high electricity bills. Since the heating and cooling systems cover almost half the average of home utility expenses, lower your electric bills through regular furnace filter replacements. Regularly changing your furnace filter helps lower the bills by increasing energy efficiency. This way, your HVAC unit won’t have to work harder to circulate the air, preventing you from breaking your bank with unnecessarily expensive monthly bills.
When You Should Replace Your Furnace Filter
Generally, you should change your furnace filter every three months. You can also schedule your replacements during seasonal changes.
However, it would be best to consider the following factors before replacing your filter:
- Filter Thickness – Unlike thin filters, thick ones don’t usually require frequent replacements
- One to two inches: Replace every one to three months
- Three to four inches: Replace every six to nine months
- Five to six inches: Replace every nine to 12 months
- Location – Living in a city can clog your filter faster than in a rural area
- Weather – Winter prompts the furnace filter to work harder to warm your home
- Pets – You may have to replace your filter more often if you have furry friends
- Health Conditions – Having allergies or respiratory illnesses may also require you to replace your filter frequently
How To Replace Your Furnace Filter
Furnace filter replacement is usually among the most straightforward maintenance tasks for homeowners. Here’s how to do it yourself:
Buy the appropriate type of furnace filter
Before purchasing, you should check the manual to determine your filter’s type, dimensions, and thickness. You can also find the size on the side print. Use a tape measure if yours doesn’t have a side print.
Whether purchasing a pleated or non-pleated filter, choose one for residential homes rather than commercial use. You want to buy a filter that removes contaminants without affecting the airflow.
Furthermore, you may require a higher-quality filter if you live with smokers, pets, or individuals with allergies and respiratory illnesses. You must check the minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV rating, to determine how well a filter traps air contaminants.
The MERV score ranges from one to 16. The highest rating is called high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA), often used in hospitals and laboratories. However, this doesn’t mean a filter with a high rating is suitable for your HVAC unit.
You can buy a filter with a MERV score of one to 12. It’s best to check your manual to determine the highest MERV rating your filter allows.
Turn off electricity
Now that you have your replacement, it’s time to get to work. The first thing to do is to turn off your furnace by shutting the thermostat off. This step is crucial because if the furnace is on without a filter, it can suck up debris that damages the internal components.
Open the door panel
Your furnace has a door that either opens or slides off. Open this panel to access the inside after turning off the power. If your door slides off, you can remove it by lifting it.
Find the filter and remove any cover
After opening the door, you can find the filter at the entrance to the blower chamber or the air return duct. Your filter may have another cover that you have to remove.
Change the filter
Once you find the filter, carefully pull it out for inspection. Replace the filter If you can’t see through it anymore.
If your filter is disposable, it has a cardboard frame. In contrast, you can clean and reuse the filter if it has a plastic or metal frame.
Contact a professional HVAC service provider like LG Home Comfort if you’re not confident installing the furnace filter yourself. This way, you can ensure proper installation that maintains and improves indoor air quality.
Keep Your Furnace Filter Clean and Working
Furnace filter replacements are home maintenance tasks you shouldn’t ignore. Keeping your filter clean and working helps you maintain healthy indoor air, save on energy costs, and extend its lifespan. Not only does this minimize health risks, but it also provides comfort that boosts productivity and efficiency.