Have you changed your HVAC system’s air filter lately? If you have not, you really should. According to Energy Star, which is the Department of Energy and EPA’s joint venture, dirt and neglect in tandem are the number one cause of HVAC system failure. Just as your car will not run well without regular oil changes and a clean oil filter, your home heating and air cooling systems cannot operate at their peak if dirt and debris make a clogged air filter or, worse, get into the machinery and cause damage to delicate parts.
Manufacturers and licensed HVAC contractors recommend changing the air filter every three months at a bare minimum plus scheduling a system check and routine maintenance for it annually. With this level of regular home maintenance, your system should operate at its most efficient level for your optimum comfort. If you continuously defer these basic maintenance checks, you risk creating a system that is inefficient, overworked, develops avoidable and expensive repairs and eventually breaks down. Air filters are there to prevent airborne particles of dirt, pollen, dust, debris and other pollutants up to 40 microns in size from entering into the HVAC system. When a system continues to operate with a filter covered in dirt, the pressure within the system drops from the blockage of air flow. A “blow out “may occur and when this happens, there is absolutely no filtration of air occurring at all. The system works harder, energy costs escalate and the stress can lead to premature failure.
At least every three months you should check your air filter’s condition. Change it out for a clean one and check the condition of the new one before installing it. Make sure you get the proper size for your unit. Using an ill-fitting filter causes the same problems as a dirty filter. Most filters are constructed of biodegradable paper or similar material and shaped into screens, cells and fins. There are many sizes and types of filters, all designed to trap as much airborne debris as possible. Do not use a filter that is torn or dented. When changing the filter, look closely at the one you removed for signs of dampness from condensation. This leads to mold growth that has serious health consequences.
You should change your filter every month in the winter and summer, the seasons of heaviest use. You should also change it monthly if you have pets (who create dander), family members with allergies or asthma (sensitive to air pollutants), smoke, live on a ranch or a farm, or have construction occurring around your home. All of these increase the amount of pollutants that come into your home’s indoor air. Finally, you should have a licensed HVAC contractor give your whole system a check up and service it once a year. Think of it as an annual physical. Regular maintenance can save you a lot of money in lower energy costs and more efficient life in your HVAC system.