Smart homeowners get their home HVAC systems inspected and tuned-up twice per year. That way, the pros can take care of the maintenance and let you know if there’s anything that doesn’t look right. But the HVAC technicians usually don’t stop by every month to change your air filter -- that job is up to you.

Changing the filter is typically a quick and easy task, but it can make a huge difference. When the filter becomes clogged with dust, dirt, pet hair and other particles, it reduces airflow to your system, forcing it to work harder. This puts a drag on your energy efficiency, which drives up your energy bills. But it also wears out HVAC components faster, hastening along the need for repairs.

If you don’t know where your filter is located or how to change it, the time to learn is now. An HVAC specialist can show you the ropes, but the follow-through is all on you!

A Simple Switch

When changing a filter, it’s important have a clean filter of the proper size. If you’re unsure of the size, the best way to find out is to check the filter that’s currently installed. Disposable filters usually have the dimensions printed on the frame.

Before removing the old filter, make sure the HVAC system is turned off. You should also take a moment to examine the old filter -- dirt and dust are normal, but mold, mildew and dampness are not. If you see this, you may have a condensation problem or leak in your system, so it’s time to call a professional. A moldy filter will circulate foul, unhealthy air throughout your home.

Remove the dirty filter carefully to avoid knocking dust loose and letting it fall into the vent. When putting the new filter in place, check for an arrow on the frame indicating the direction of airflow. Be sure to install the new filter with the arrow pointing in the same direction as the old one.

The Right Time for Change

Different types of filters need to be changed at different intervals. Most disposable filters are designed to last for one month. Others are designed to last for up to three months, but they can still clog up early due to other factors in your home.

Among the factors that contribute to frequent filter clogs are smoking in the home, using a wood fireplace, keeping indoor pets, recent interior construction and poor local air quality. Filters will also collect more particles when there are more people in the home, because many of those particles are dead skin cells.

Some filters are reusable. If you have one of these, be sure to clean it regularly using the method recommended by the manufacturer. This usually involves cleaning with a hose, vacuum attachment or compressed air. If you use a hose, be sure to direct the water flow in the opposite direction of airflow to avoid pushing dust particles deeper into the filter.

Filter replacement is easy and worthwhile when done right, but can cause serious problems when done wrong. If you ever need any help understanding what to do, your local HVAC experts are the ones to call.

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