Your AC filters are important because they remove pollutants from the air in your home. When the air filters become clogged, air won’t be able to pass through them and may cause your AC to stop working properly.
So, how often should you change your air filter?
Generally, you should change the air filters every 90 days, and once per month during the cooling season. There are certain high end pleated filters that are designed to last as long as 6 months, but standard filters should be changed more frequently. The longer you go without changing the air filters, the more dirt will accumulate on them and the worse your AC will function.
Considerations That Impact How Frequent You Should Change Your Filter
While AC filters should normally be changed every 1 – 3 months or so, there are certain considerations that can shorten that time frame. The following can all reduce the time in which AC filters might require a change.
Does Anyone in the House Have Allergies?
You should change your air filters every 6 weeks if anyone in your home has allergies or asthma. People with allergies or asthma are much more sensitive to buildups of dirt and dust in your home. By changing your air filter every 6 weeks, you can make sure that your air quality is as strong as possible to minimize allergy symptoms and the risk of an asthma attack.
Are There Pets in the House?
Pets are wonderful additions to the family, but our furry friends shed dirt, dander, and other particles around your home. These particles are often kicked up into the air and reduce your indoor air quality. Change your AC air filter every 2 months if you have pets. You should also get in the habit of vacuuming your carpets and rugs every week, because that’s where pet debris usually gathers.
Are There Younger Children in the House?
Replace your air filter every 2-3 months if you have young children. According to the American Lung Association, children exposed to polluted air are more at risk of developing asthma and other lifelong respiratory problems. Make your indoor air as safe as possible for your kids and have the AC filter changed every season.
To sum it up:
- Change your air filter every 90 days if you don’t have allergies, children, or pets
- Change your air filter every 6 weeks if anyone in your home has allergies or asthma
- Change your air filter every 2 months if you have a dog or cat
- Change your air filter every 30 days if you have multiple pets
- Change your air filter every 2-3 months if you have young children
When Should You Change Your AC Filter?
How often you change your AC filter depends on the type of filter you have. Generally, there are fiberglass filters and pleated air filters.
- Fiberglass Filters: Fiberglass filters need to be replaced every 30 days. These filters are less expensive, but they’re made of lower-quality materials that get clogged with dust and debris faster.
- Pleated Air Filters: Pleated air filters last between 3-6 months. When you need to change them depends on the manufacturer and how often you use your AC. As we mentioned earlier, having pets, younger children, or family members with allergies may impact how frequently to change filters.
If you live in a hot and humid place, like Southwest Florida, it’s advisable to change your AC filters once per month during the summer. You’ll be running your AC very often in the summer and it will accumulate debris quickly.
No matter where you live, you should change your AC filter just before the summer begins. This is also a good time to schedule an annual AC tuneup (HVAC technicians will always change out your air filter during an annual servicing). Doing AC maintenance before the summer begins is a good way to prepare your HVAC system for heavy usage and reduce the risk of a breakdown in the hottest time of year.
Why is Changing Your AC Filter Important?
Changing your air filter is important for 3 reasons.
- Improve Your Air Quality: Your air filter removes contaminants that would otherwise pollute your indoor air. Indoor air pollution is a serious health risk—in fact, indoor air pollution can be 10 times worse than outdoor air pollution, and cause health complications that severely affect your lungs. When your air filter gets clogged, it won’t be able to trap particles, and the particles could get backed up into your HVAC system and circulated back into your home.
- Keep Your AC Working Efficiently: Air won’t be able to pass through a clogged air filter. Without sufficient airflow, your AC will have to work harder and longer to cool your home, which puts strain on your AC components. Your AC would stop blowing cool air, get overheated, or break down.
- Reduce Your Energy Bills: A clogged air filter will make your AC work harder and longer to draw air through the system, consuming more energy and costing you more money.
Things That Can Impact the Life of Your AC Filter
Although most AC filters last between 30 – 90 days, there are a few variables that can impact the lifespan of your filter.
- Air Quality in Your Home: You’ll need to change the air filter in your home more frequently if the air quality in your home is poor. Poor indoor air quality means that your air is polluted by particles and contaminants, and these will accumulate quickly in your air filter. (Read our blog on how to improve your indoor air quality if you’re dealing with air pollution in your home.)
- How Often You Use Your HVAC System: The more often you use your heating and cooling system, the faster your air filter will get worn out. During the warmest / coolest months of the year, you could be using your HVAC system every day for a substantial number of hours. You may want to change your air filter once per month during these busy seasons.
- Size of Your Home: Air filters in smaller homes don’t need to be changed as frequently because they don’t require as much air flow to heat or cool, so they collect fewer particles. Conversely, you may need to change your air filter more frequently if you have a large home.
- Inhabitants: Households filled with pets and children will likely introduce more dirt, dust, and debris for an air conditioner filter to catch which likely has a negative impact on the lifespan of AC filter.
How to Tell When Your AC Filter Needs to Be Changed
The easiest way to tell whether or not your AC filter needs to be changed is to manually check the filter.
The filter should be working fine if there’s only a thin layer of dirt / debris on it, and if you can see the material the filter is made from.
Conversely, you’ll need to clean or change the filter if there’s a thick layer of dirt that mostly or completely covers the underlying filter material.
Here are some indicators that your AC filter needs changing:
- Your AC is running for longer periods than normal
- Your AC is not blowing cool air into your home
- Dust is building up near your vents
- You have freezing coils, or you have water leakage from ice melting
How to Change Your AC Filter
Changing your AC filter is one of the few AC maintenance tasks you can do on your own. You can change the filter in 5 easy steps.
- Get the Right Air Filter Replacements: Make sure your replacement AC filter is the right size for your HVAC unit. Check your current filter if you’re not sure which size you need—the specifications should be printed on the size. If they’re not, use measuring tape to get the dimensions or just bring in the old filter to size the replacement properly.
- Shut Off Your System: Go to your thermostat and switch the HVAC system to OFF. You can also turn off the system at the circuit breaker.
- Locate the Air Filter: On most HVAC systems, the air filter will be located in either the return duct or the indoor unit (which is often in the basement, utility closet, or attic). Check the user manual if you’re unsure or call your local HVAC company for assistance.
- Replace the Air Filter: Remove the grill that covers the filter; you may have to use a screwdriver. Carefully remove the old filter and insert the new air filter in its place. The filter should have arrows printed on it that tell you which way it should be inserted. Replace the grill when you’re done.
- Test the AC: Turn the HVAC system back on and set the temperature high or low so that it runs through a cycle. Make sure the system is cooling or heating your home as it should be.
How to Find and Buy a New Filter
How do you know which air filter to buy for your AC? Here are some tips:
- Select pleated filters over fiberglass filters. Pleated filters are more durable and don’t need to be changed as frequently.
- Choose a filter that has more pleats. The more pleats a filter has, the more pollutants it can filter out. Pleats are measured by “pleats per foot.”
- Look for a filter with a high MERV rating.
- Avoid buying cheap filters. While this may save money initially, they won’t filter air as efficiently and you’ll need to replace them often, which costs you more money in the long-term.
Replacing the filter generally isn’t a difficult task but working on HVAC systems can be daunting. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your Hurricane AC if you need professional guidance.
Air filters are rated on the MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) scale. MERV rates air filters by their ability to block particles.
- MERV 1-4: This is the lowest rating. These filters can trap larger particles like carpet fibers and pollen but aren’t as efficient at trapping smaller particles.
- MERV 5-8: You should look for an air filter that’s rated 5-8, at a minimum. These filters can trap mold spores, dust, and aerosol particles. They’re also ideal because they allow sufficient airflow in your HVAC system, reducing strain on your component and improving your energy efficiency.
- MERV 9-12: These filters are extremely effective at cleaning your home air. However, their openings are so small that your AC must work harder to pull air through the system. That puts additional strain on your HVAC system which can reduce its lifespan and increase your energy bills if the filter gets too dirty. Most experts advise getting a filter that’s rated 5-8 to strike the right balance between quality and cost.
- MERV 13-16: These air filters can trap the largest variety of pollutants, including secondhand smoke and bacteria. They’re best suited for commercial buildings, not residential ones.
Reusable air filters are ideal because you can just wash them when they get dirty—no need to go out and buy a brand-new filter. Reusable air filters are also more eco-friendly because they reduce waste.
Contact Hurricane Air Conditioning if You Need AC Service
Keep your AC clean and energy-efficient by scheduling an annual AC tuneup. Our certified HVAC technicians will change your air filter and do other maintenance tasks that reduce the risk of breakdowns and increase the lifespan of your unit. Hurricane AC services both residential properties in Southwest Florida so call today to schedule an inspection.