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4 Signs That Your Home Air Filter Is Past Its Prime

You would be shocked to learn how much your air filters are doing for you, every single day. They require so little from you in return. By taking just a few minutes every few months to check and replace your air filters, you can keep a cleaner home, improve HVAC output and efficiency and make the indoor air healthier for everyone. These four situations help you to understand the role that your air filters play in your home comfort, and how you can improve it with a very small investment of your time and money.

1. Your Vents Are Dusty, and Your Home Is Not Much Better

Your HVAC system works in a couple of different ways. Some systems pull a portion of the air from the outdoors, filter it and send it through the home. Others continually recycle the air inside the home, passing it through the air filter each time. The goal of the air filter is to prevent the dust and debris from the outdoors from entering your home, and from the dust, pet dander and other indoor allergens from cycling through your home over and over again.
The condition of your air filters, your home’s exterior and your ductwork all have the potential to be weak links in the chain. The more clogged and dirty your air filter becomes, the less effectively it can collect the dust that passes through. Filters that are designed to pull out more contaminants will decrease your overall HVAC efficiency as they get full. By comparison, filters with a lower rate of filtration may simply start passing dust to the ductwork. Replacing your air filters decreases this problem significantly.
If you have clean air filters but your home is still excessively dusty, look for air leaks and leaks in your ductwork. Gaps around your windows and doors encourage the transfer of dust and dirt from outdoors every time there is a strong wind. Leaky ductwork decreases the ability of your ventilation system to filter out the pollutants affecting your indoor air quality. Instead of sending the air through the filter again, the duct leaks push air and allergens through the gaps and holes.

2. Your Air Filter Always Seems Clogged

It is pretty simple to check your air filters. In fact, if you want to level up as a savvy homeowner, you will make a plan to take a look at them once a month. As a general rule, air filters are designed to be cleaned or changed at least every three months. If you look at them every month, you can get a sense of how quickly they get clogged at different times of the year. The rate an air filter becomes dirty depends on your environment, maintenance of the HVAC system and how often you use it. If you use an air conditioner every day during the summer, but rely on a furnace less frequently throughout the year, you might not need to change the filter as often during the winter.
The level of filtration also makes a difference in the rate your air filters get clogged. Air filters are rated using the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV), and higher numbers draw more contaminants out of the air. If you bought air filters with a higher value, they may become clogged more quickly. Most disposable filters are rated to last about three months, but your individual use may vary from manufacturer expectations.
Since the air filters are also filtering air from the outside, you should take a periodic look at the intake vents. Your air conditioning condenser should be wiped regularly and have 12” of clearance on all sides, to ensure better airflow. If your furnace has a fresh air intake vent, which is a little like a dryer vent, make sure that it is not clogged with dirt and debris. These small changes can reduce the pressure on your air filters to keep dust from entering the home.

3. Your HVAC System Is Not Working Like It Should

Regardless of how dirty your air filters become, your HVAC system still has to push air through it. Compare freely breathing fresh, clean air to trying to breathe through several layers of cheesecloth, and you will get the idea. Clogged air filters often cause your furnace to cycle on and off more often, or for the system to run more frequently. As a result, your energy usage goes up without a corresponding increase in comfort. You can change out the air filter as a simple way to promote HVAC efficiency. If a clean air filter does not seem to solve the problem, you might request professional service to identify possible causes of an inefficient or ineffective HVAC system.

4. You Are Unhappy With Your Indoor Air Quality

Like most parts of your HVAC system, the needs and maintenance of your air filters are dependent on how they are used. You have many options to consider for overall filtration. First, identify if your concerns about filtration are due to a fault in the air filter or the system. If they seem to be working appropriately, you can start to think about what you might add to your home to reduce allergens and other contaminants. Start by trying air filters with a MERV rating of 5-8 or 9-12, which are set to pull out most common irritants. Consider other sources of filtration for your home, such as HEPA filtration systems or air purifiers.
You can also make a number of improvements with some simple changes to household behaviors. If you fall victim to seasonal allergies, avoid keeping your doors and windows wide open at those times of year. Make a plan to avoid using harsh cleaning products that emit fumes, and always use proper ventilation when cooking or working on home improvement projects. Keep portable grills outside, and minimize the smoke-producing activities you do inside. The more effort you make toward prevention, the less your filtration system has to manage. This leads to positive changes in your indoor air quality and encourages greater efficiency in your ventilation system.
Sometimes, a bit of work yields a lot of benefits for you and your family. When you keep your air filters well maintained, you help your HVAC system to run effectively in any season. You also keep dust and debris from contaminating your home and negatively affecting your health. Once you know how to determine that your air filters need to be changed, you can make a plan to do it at least every three months.