Even if you are all thumbs, there is one home maintenance project that just about anyone can handle: changing the filter on a forced-air heating and cooling system. Changing the filter can make your home more comfortable because the system will be more efficient at cleaning the air, and a clean filter may help prevent costly HVAC repairs in the future.
Locate the Filter
Filters need to be changed, or cleaned if it is a reusable model, because they prevent the dust and other impurities that circulate through the forced-air system from coming in contact with the blower motor and the compressor coils. The filter is located just before where the return air enters the furnace cabinet.
At the very least, change the filter at the start of the heating season and again at the start of the cooling season if the system includes air-conditioning. Some people recommend changing the filter monthly, others every three months. Here’s another strategy: Change the filter and then check it in a month. If it looks relatively clean, reinstall it and check it in another month. The goal is to create a schedule that meets the needs of your particular system.
Changing the Filter
Types of Filters
The standard furnace filter is a fiberglass or polyester flat filter that keeps large dust particles out of the system. But there are pleated filters, which have more surface area for trapping particles, and filters that contain an electric charge, which can filter out very small contaminants. These more efficient filters are designed to improve the air quality in the home. They remove such contaminants as mold spores, bacteria and microscopic allergens—some of the most efficient filters can even remove odors.
You can determine how effective a filter is at removing specific contaminants by checking the filter rating. There are a few rating systems. The Home Depot’s Filter Performance Rating (FPR) is fairly straightforward and easy to follow. Filters are rated from four to 10, with the higher numbers removing the smallest contaminants. Filters are tested by an independent third party. Here’s more information about the rating system, including the contaminants filters can remove from the air in your home.
Before substituting a standard filter with one that removed more contaminants, discuss your plans with an HVAC technician. Some filters can reduce air flow in the system, making the blower motor work harder. This could lead to damaging the motor.
Changing the filter in a forced-air heating and cooling system, is an easy way to keep the equipment working properly.