Your heating and cooling system relies on good maintenance to keep everything in great working condition.
Part of this maintenance includes using high-quality air filters to keep the system in tip-top shape and your home free of contaminants.
If you’re a new homeowner, read on for a list of tips to help you choose the right air filter for your needs for cleaner air and a smooth-running system.
1. Check the Size
Not all air filters are the same, and different systems require filters of varying sizes. You can usually spot the size on the side of the frame around the filter.
The measurements are listed in length, width, and depth (or thickness). Sizes vary depending on the type of system you have, but most are standard and you can find replacements in almost any home improvement store.
Home air filters use two different sizing methods: nominal and actual. The nominal size uses a rounded measurement found printed on your filter. The actual size is what you’d get if you measure it with a tape measure, so try this first and round up if you’re not sure.
2. Determine what MERV Rating You Need
The term MERV stands for Maximum Efficiency Reporting Value, and it determines how effective your filter will be at capturing contaminants and particles. This rating system is on a scale of 1-20, with 20 being the most expensive and the best at grabbing microscopic particles.
For most homeowners, a MERV rating between 6 and 12 should suffice. Air filters with this rating capture pet dander, pollen, dust, lint, and mold.
If you suffer from allergies or asthma, an air filter with a higher MERV rating is suggested. Don’t go too high, since those filters are usually reserved for hospitals and they may restrict the airflow in your system.
3. Choosing Material for Air Filters
The types of air filters you can purchase varies depending on the MERV rating and the material they’re made of. Fiberglass filters are the cheapest, but they also tend to have the lowest MERV ratings, which could be a concern if you’re worried about indoor air quality.
On the other hand, fiberglass filters allow for great airflow, which can be good for your system. These filters may need to be changed more often than some other alternatives since they’re not as good at filtering large particles like dust and pet hair.
For a higher MERV rating, consider a pleated air filter. This type of filter does a great job of grabbing allergens and smaller particles for cleaner air.
A HEPA filter offers the highest MERV ratings, and these are typically used in hospitals and medical environments. The majority of residential HVAC systems cannot accommodate these filters, since they restrict airflow at a much higher rate.
4. Learn How to Install a New Filter
Once you know the size, MERV rating, and material of your new air filter, it’s time to learn how to replace it. Your furnace or HVAC system should have a slot where you can pull the old filter out and replace it with a new one.
Make sure you install the new filter in the direction of the airflow. The filter should have an arrow or two pointing in the direction where the airflow should be going.
Gently insert the new filter into the slot, checking that the arrow is pointing toward the airflow. This is usually toward the fan, and then make sure it’s snug without any gaps showing.
Some systems have a small door that you can close to keep the filter securely in place. Others may have a metal grate on the wall or ceiling where you can open it and put the new filter inside. The process should only take a minute or two, then you can dispose of the old, dirty filter safely.
5. Schedule Your Filter Changes
Most air filters should be changed at least every 30 days, but some are designed to last for as long as up to 90 days. It’s crucial to change your air filter regularly to prevent your system from becoming overworked.
If your filter sits for too long, it will become clogged with dust, hair, and other gunk. In time, this can cause the home’s heating and cooling system to work too hard, and eventually, it may break down.
People with pets or carpeted homes may need to change the air filter more often. A clean filter is a key to improving air quality, so mark your calendar to remind yourself when it’s time to change yours.
Fiberglass air filters should be replaced at least once a month. Pleated filters can be replaced every 30 to 90 days. Check the packaging on your filter to find out how long yours should last.
If your air filter looks dirty or dark in color, it’s perfectly fine to change it early. Remember, it’s better to have a clean filter than to forget to change it altogether.
A Clean Filter Means a Clean Home
When it comes to a well-maintained system, air filters play a crucial role in your home. Make sure you change your filter as recommended, and that you choose one with a MERV rating that will keep the air in your home clean.
Consider the type and material of your filter to determine which option is best for your needs. With the right filter, your home will be safer, and your heating and cooling system will run smoothly.
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