The Many Benefits of Replacing your Heating and Air Conditioning Filters Every Three Months

When adulting, you realize certain things need to be changed out to make life more manageable: your old tires, your dead lightbulbs, your well-worn socks. All of these changes are obvious—we can see them, feel them, smell them. But there are some very patient and hardworking friends nestled right in your home who deserve the same kind of refresh: your heating and air conditioning filters.

Since the filters that are used in your HVAC system are generally not visible, we sometimes forget their importance and frankly, we sometimes forget the last time we changed them. Well, here are some strong arguments to help you remember to give your old filters a respectful retirement and pop new ones in their place.

Clogged filters and lead to damaging your whole system

And that’s not being dramatic.

A dirty air filter filled with dust, hair and fuzz of dubious origins can really tax your system. Air has to push harder or pull with more strength to get through the blockages in an old filter. Overall, this means your system is working more than it should and that system fatigue can get really (really) expensive if it leads to a breakdown. One of the leading causes of AC and heating system failures? You guessed it, dirty filters.

What you spend on a filter you save many times over on your energy bills

You can do the math: a new filter costs $15-30 (on the high side); having clean filters can shave 15% off your utility bills. Seems like a no brainer. A clogged up filtercan make your AC and heater run longer since air isn’t being cooled or pushed out hot in the most efficient way. The more your system has to work in order to meet the demands of your thermostat, the longer running cycles will be. Your system will have less time to rest between those cycles and your monthly energy bills will show it.

If you’re not replacing your filters regularly, you are living with unhealthy air

Filters help take pet dander, pollen, dust mites and particulates out of circulation. What happens with a clogged up filter? That gross-ness just keeps re-circulating. Perhaps that seems just fine for you, but for those with respiratory problems like asthma or chronic sinusitis, older folks and young kids whose systems may not be so strong, and people with allergies, rotating filters is a must. Plus, new filters actually help the air smell fresher in your home as well. Need more inspiration for living with healthy air? Google “dust mites.” Gross-ness.

A dirty filter may actually be the cause for uneven heating and cooling

It stands to reason that if a filter is blocking air from flowing the way it should be, the air is not getting to where it needs to be (like cooling your bedroom on a sweltering night or making the family room cozy while you’re watching the snow fall). If you are experiencing inconsistencies in your heating or cooling or walk into hot or cold patches in your house, a clogged of filter may be the cause. It could also be ghosts, but check the filter first.

Mold.

Yup. A filter that has layers of dust and grime is also a very cozy place for moisture to gather and hang out. The more moisture a filter holds, the more ameniable the filter is to growing mold or bacteria. And since air is still coming in and out of the filter, those colonized bacterium and mold spores get to unleash themselves from the filter and go straight into the air you’re breathing, or better yet, find a nestling place in your clothes or sheets.

It’s easy to do and doesn’t require a professional

Really, changing your filter is not hard. Buy a new filter at a home improvement store and take off the wrapping. Turn off your furnace or AC unit. Unlatch the cover of the register (or intake duct). Take out the old filter and put it immediately in the trash (no need to re-circulate what the last filter worked so hard to trap. Wipe everything down with a damp rag and dust the grill slats. Point the arrows of your new filter towards the duct and write that day’s date on the frame of the filter. Grate back on, unit back on. Done, done and done.

If you let your filters go for too long, you may find that your ducts are starting to look a little grimy as well. Don’t let this go. Call in the professionals to come over and clean out the ducts. Hate to break it to you, but if you’d just changed those filters on time in the first place, you wouldn’t have to bring in the professionals. Once the dust bunnies get into the ducts, your system is even more seriously compromised. Don’t let it happen to you.

Now the question becomes, how often should filters be changed? Generally, if you’re in a pet-free home, every three months is just fine. If you have pets of the super furry kind, every two months. Multi-pet family or someone with asthma? Every month. But for a vacation house or a single dweller without pets, you can luxuriate with your HVAC filter for 6 months.

Though you may be ready to change your filters now (good job), how will you remember in three months? Set an appointment on your phone for 120 days to grab new filters—might as well go ahead and schedule that out all year. And while you’re grabbing one filter, think of getting a two pack instead so the next change is even easier to do. Use a highlighter to draw the replacement dates on your daily planner or calendar—write it big and bold. Fresher air, a cleaner home and a better working HVAC system are pretty great benefits to a pretty quick and inexpensive fix. And your adulting skills have just hit the next level.

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