Air Filters 101 – What HVAC Techs Want You to Know
PLUS: A Personalized Air Filter Schedule Calculator
When is the last time you changed your air filter?
You know you’re supposed to change your home’s air filter on a regular basis, but do you know exactly how often you need to change it? This is a common confusion that a lot of people have. Many of the customers are Hanna Heating & Air technicians speak to express some uncertainties or misunderstandings about proper air filter maintenance.
Beyond the basic tasks of changing it regularly, do you know which air filter is really the recommended one that you should buy? It’s a basic component of your home’s entire HVAC system but one that is very, very important, so we wanted to cut through the confusion and provide you with the answers you may be too afraid to ask.
*Note: Don’t hesitate to ask us of us at Hanna Heating and Air any HVAC question you have. No question is too dumb if it means leaving you with a home that is more comfortable and a heating and cooling system more reliable for many years to come.
How often do you really need to change your air filter?
Questioning what air filter schedule is best? The answer isn’t simple. How often you need to change your air filter depends on a few factors. From who’s living in your home to where you live can determine whether you need you change your air filter once every few months to once every few weeks. or as much as once a month.
Factors to determine how often you need to change your air filter.
Try out our Personalized Air Filter Schedule Calculator to find out how often you need to change the filter in your home. This calculator factors in using a standard pleated air filter with a 5 to 11 MERV rating.
- The size of your home also plays a factor. HVAC systems in smaller homes, for both heating and cooling, pump less air throughout your space than in larger homes.
- However, your smaller home may mean that you have a smaller system installed. If that’s the case, then you are likely dealing with a smaller air filter and will need the same frequent replacement schedule as a larger home with an appropriately larger HVAC system and filter.
How often are you using your furnace and air conditioner? Are you needing to run your HVAC system most of the time year-round? Frequent use of your heating and cooling system means you will need to change your filter more often than if you only used it at certain times of the year and for only a few hours of the day.
What is the best air filter to buy?
You have many options when it comes to buying an air filter for your furnace. And for some people, the options can seem overwhelming. While some want to buy the cheapest there is, others think the more they spend the better quality they will get – and perhaps, the less often they have to replace their air filter. So, who is right?
As professional HVAC technicians who have been fixing systems for decades, we have seen every type of air filter there is put in use in homes across the Wichita area. Those cheap fiberglass filters usually don’t do a good enough job filtering out the dirt and debris.
And what about those expensive filters with tightly fit accordion folds are tightly knit together? They can often be too restrictive and filter out maybe even more than necessary. That makes these filters high-maintenance and in need of replacing more frequently.
You are likely to find the middle-of-the-road option the best. A medium grade pleated filter with a MERV rating between 8 and 11 can be expected to keep out the dust and debris effectively at a reasonable price.
Understanding the MERV rating for air filters
Whatever filter you choose, get one with a MERV rating that matches the manufacturer-recommended rating for your HVAC system. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value.
Most home filters specify using an air filter with a MERV rating of between 1 and 20. The higher the rating, the more efficient the filter is at trapping particles from the air. A rating of up to MERV 8 is a filter that handles everyday issues such as pet dander, pollen and dust. A filter that is 11 MERV or higher handles is the next level of air filtration, handling even smarter particles such as from mold and smoke. MERV 8 filters collect 80% of small debris while MERV 11 filters get up to 95% of even smaller particles.
The cheapest fiberglass filters provide the least amount of filtering and have a MERV rating between 1 and 4. A disposable pleated filters are 5-7 MERV. Electrostatic self-charging filters are 2-10 MERV. A thick pleated residential filter that is specifically designed for a larger filter housing (2-5 inches thick) is 11-13 MERV. HEPA filters (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters out particles as small as 0.3 microns and are MERV rated 13 and above.
Signs it’s time to change an air filter:
The 1 Quick Check
There is one quick check to see if it’s time to replace your air filter, and it’s incredibly easy. Pull out your air filter. You are likely to see a layer of dust and dirt, but look closely and answer this one question:
Air Filters FAQ:
Yes. HVAC air filters work for both the heating and the cooling.
There is an incredible amount of different sizes when it comes to air filters and it’s important that you buy the right size of filter for your HVAC system. The best way to do that is simply pulling out your existing air filter and getting the size from that.
Installing an air filter is usually quite easy.
- Remove any plastic from the filter. Do NOT remove the cardboard framing.
- Make sure you have it positioned so the air is going toward the unit’s blower (see below FAQ for further instructions on air filter direction).
- Insert the filter into the slot.
Always make sure the arrow that is on the air filter is pointed in the direction of the airflow. If you don’t know which way points to the blower for your HVAC system, simply look to see which direction the arrow is pointing on the filter you are replacing.
Still confused? Just ask Wichita’s Air Conditioning Experts!
Hanna Heating and Air has worked on thousands of HVAC systems over the decades across the Wichita area. Most of our technicians have more than 10 years’ experience fixing furnaces and broken ac units and have seen all types of HVAC problems, big and small. We can always be called upon to come check why your AC won’t turn, why your furnace is blowing cold air, or other problem keeping your home from being comfortable. We have also seen when the problem is something so simple, the homeowner can fix it themselves. Instead of charging for one of our trained HVAC technicians to come out to your home for something that may be an easy repair, we are happy to talk you through a problem over the phone for you to address it yourself. And when your home is ready for a new unit, we can work with you to make sure we install exactly the right cooling system for your needs. With our large team of technicians in our Wichita, Andover, and Newton locations, we can often deliver same day service.