Changing Air Filters: One Simple Step For Good HVAC Care

Air Conditioners
Air Conditioners
A central HVAC system that works well is vital for the comfort of the occupants in a house. Key to keeping the system working well is to ensure the filter is in good shape. This usually means changing it every month or so.
However, the filter is also easily overlooked. If you have a busy schedule, you might forget to change the filter for a while. That can make your home less comfortable and even harm the air conditioner.

What the Filter Does

Your air conditioner's filter, as the name suggests, filters the air being drawn into your air conditioning system. The filter traps pollutants like allergens, pet dander, dust, skin cells, and more. The air that gets through the filter is thus cleaner, and that means the air that comes out of the vents will be cleaner.
Filters vary in what they remove from the air because the cells in the filter material sometimes let particles of a certain size get through. Each filter type has a rating called the minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV, that indicates how well the filter cleans the air. But even very cheap filters with a low MERV number will do a decent job.
If your house is particularly dusty, has pets, is in an area known for having lots of allergens, or has a lot of occupants, you may need to change the filter more than once a month. In this case, check the filter every couple of weeks. If it looks like it's covered with dust or pet hair, for example, change it.

Why You Need to Change the Filter

As the filter grabs pollutants from the air, it slowly becomes clogged with all the debris. Dust and hair build up on the filter, eventually blocking the path of the air trying to get through.
If you let the filter become clogged, then the air conditioner has to work much harder to draw air through the filter. That can increase your bill every month and stress out the HVAC system. In some cases, it can cause the system to fail.
Don't be tempted to remove and not replace the filter, either. While that would certainly allow more air in, it would also allow all that dust, dander, and so on to get into the HVAC system. The dust that would have clogged the filter before would now clog the main HVAC machinery and cause a failure.

How to Find and Change Your Air Conditioning Filter

Changing the filter is one of the easiest -- seriously, one of the easiest -- ways to take care of the HVAC system. It is a very simple process, and in most cases, you can find and access the filter without a lot of searching.
Look for a grate on the wall or ceiling that looks like a really large vent but that doesn't have a lever to move the louvers inside the vent. In fact, you might not be able to see that well into the opening behind the grate.
You should be able to remove the grate by unscrewing a couple of screws. If the filter is on the ceiling, place a plastic tarp or bag on the floor to catch falling dust. Open the grate and you should see the filter.
Note the model number of the filter and go get a few extra from a home improvement store. The filters can be very cheap; better filters will cost more, but even those shouldn't be too much. When you get the filters, turn off the air conditioner and wait for it to stop, open up the grate again, remove the old filter, and place the new filter inside the opening.
You should see arrows on the new filter that indicate which side faces the wall, or which edge of the filter goes in first. Discard the old filter.
If you can't seem to find the filter for your system, or you notice moisture, mildew, or anything else that does not seem normal, contact Total Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning. Have your filter changed and the rest of the system inspected to ensure that everything will continue to work efficiently.