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HVAC Air Filters: How Often to Change Them

Professional repair service man or diy home owner a clean new air filter on a house air conditioner which is an important part of preventive maintenance.

If you have an HVAC system, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of a regular filter change. This essential practice is done to make sure you have clean air circulating around the house.

Let’s take a closer look at why changing air filters is so important and some handy tips on how to do it.

Why a Regular Filter Change is Essential

Replacing the filter affects how efficiently the HVAC system runs, since it plays a large role in maintaining indoor air quality as well as temperature, working to remove debris, dust, pet hair, pollen, and other tiny particles from the air so you don’t breathe them in.

Not changing the air filters often enough means the HVAC unit is forced to work harder which, in turn, can lead to it breaking down more often. Also, a badly clogged filter will blow more dirt into your home than you’d otherwise have.

Although some other DIY projects in the house can be time-consuming and fiddly, changing air filters is a quick, straightforward process.

A filter change can be done in mere minutes, although not every homeowner knows how to do it, or even how often a filter change is necessary, in order to keep the whole system running efficiently, keep the air you breathe clean and fresh, maintain the correct temperature, and minimize the risk of costly HVAC breakdowns.

How Often to Change HVAC Filters

Changing your HVAC air filters on a regular basis is good practice, but how often should you be doing this?

Ideally, every three months is a good guideline, but there are various factors affecting how often you need to perform a filter change, including the following:

  • Air Filter Type

Not every air filter works the same way or is as effective as others. For instance, you might opt for fiberglass filters because they cost less.

However, these lower quality filters tend to have quite a short life span and must be changed on a monthly basis, making them more expensive in the long run.

Pleated air filters, on the other hand, can last three times as long because they’re of a higher quality and better at trapping particles.

  • Pets

If you have dogs, cats or other furry indoor pets, it’s best to change the filters every two months to ensure the circulating air is clean.

  • House Size

An HVAC system in a small home won’t have to pump as much air for a temperature change as the HVAC in a big house, which means smaller homes should be able to go for longer periods between filter changes.

  • Children

Changing the air filters every two months is also a good idea if you have young kids at home, since this helps keep the indoor air quality good.

  • Home Use

Houses where the HVAC system is used every day will need the filters changed more often than a vacation home which only runs the HVAC system for a few months a year.

If you only have the heating and cooling system running several times a year, then you might be able to go six to twelve months between each air filter change.

Also, bear in mind there are more allergens and airborne particles during the summer months compared to the winter ones, and the AC also has to work harder to maintain a comfortable house temperature, so you might need to change the filters more often during the summer.

  • Asthma and Allergies

Those suffering from asthma, COPD or allergies know that even a tiny amount of debris or dust in the air can cause an asthma attack or other reaction. If this applies to you or someone else in the home, it’s best to change your filters every forty to fifty days.

Although the above factors affect how often a filter change is necessary, it’s best to examine your HVAC filter each month so you can see how much particle buildup there is.

If several of the above factors apply to you, such as you have small children, pets and asthma, you will want to change the filters more often to keep the air in your home clean and safe to breathe.

If you see the air filter is totally layered with debris and dust, you should change it even if it hasn’t been in place for the whole recommended filter lifespan.

The easiest way to tell is to hold it up to the light – if it’s clogged and no light passes through it, it’s time to change it.

How to Perform a Filter Change

When it’s time for a filter replacement, the following steps should walk you through the process:

  1. Choose the Right Filter

Look at the old filter and check for the size, which should be printed on one side. If you can’t find this information, you can use a measuring tape to get the dimensions instead.

  1. Turn the Unit Off

Either turn the whole HVAC system off at the circuit breaker or flip the switch on the thermostat to turn the unit off.

  1. Find the Filter

The air filter on your unit is going to be in a return duct or else it will be on an air handler in your attic, utility closet or basement.


  1. Take Off the Cover or Grille

If the filter is in the return duct, you need to flip the latches securing it in place and then pull out the grille.

If you’re doing the filter change on an air filter in the air handler, you need to locate and open the access panel. You might need to use screwdriver if it’s held in place with small screws.

  1. Fit the New Filter in Place

Remove the used filter, taking note of how it was fitted so you’ll be able to fit the new one the same way. Put the new air filter in place, ensuring you have the airflow arrows pointing toward the unit.

  1. The Finishing Steps

Now all that’s left for you to do is put the cover back on and then turn your HVAC system back on to make sure the filter has been fitted correctly and the AC runs smoothly.

In Conclusion

Now you know exactly how to perform a filter change, you might want to put a recurring reminder on your phone or calendar so you don’t forget to change the air filter frequently, and always ensure you have a spare so you’re prepared when filter change time arrives.

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