Your home’s heating and air conditioning air filter has two primary jobs. The first job is to remove particles and contaminates from the air. The second job is to act as a barrier that prevents particles from getting into your HVAC system’s motors, fans or coils. If your air filter isn’t able to do these jobs effectively, your health and your HVAC may system can both suffer.
If you go too long without changing your air filter, it will become much less efficient at trapping particles from the air and allow more contaminants to seep through its barrier into your HVAC system. Furthermore, a dirty filter will impede the air flowing through your system and force it to use more energy to heat or cool your home.
Dirty Filters Can Damage Your Health and Your HVAC System
When your air filter stops trapping contaminants from the air, your indoor air quality (IAQ) will suffer. Poor IAQ is linked to various health problems ranging from the minor discomfort of headaches and sinus irritation to debilitating illnesses like respiratory or cardiac disease.
The consequences for your HVAC system can also be serious. As dirt builds up on your air filter, your system’s efficiency may drop by as much as 15 percent. As a result, your energy use will increase and your energy bills will start to rise. Dirt will also begin to infiltrate your equipment, which can lead to damage in addition to affecting your system’s efficiency. Replacing an air filter is quick, easy and inexpensive, but replacing another part of your HVAC system can be a costly headache.
In general, you should change your system’s air filter every three to four months. Depending on your system, your air quality and your choice of filter, you may need to change it even more frequently to ensure the best performance.
Efficiency Vs. Air Flow
In addition to changing your air filter regularly, it’s also worthwhile to consider your choice of air filter carefully. You want your filter to strike a good balance between trapping as many particles as possible and allowing air to flow smoothly. Air filters that present a stronger barrier for contaminants are also more likely to slow your air flow, while filters that promote air flow may only trap large particles and allow small irritants to pass through.
Cost is also a factor in choosing an air filter. Expensive options are more likely to achieve good efficiency and air flow, while affordable options are more likely to compromise one or the other. Ultimately, no single filter will be the right choice for every home and every system. Don’t be afraid to experiment with several filters until you find the one that works best for you.
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