Responsible homeowners know to replace their HVAC system filters on schedule. But sometimes, “on schedule” just isn’t good enough. If you check your filter at replacement time and find that it’s completely covered in dust, hair and other particles, you might start wondering what causes it to clog up prematurely.

There are a few common causes of this, as well as a few things you can do to correct the problem.

Clogged Before Its Time

Here are some of the typical reasons why a filter will clog faster than average:

  • Pet hair. If you have one or more shedding pets in the home, this is almost certainly contributing to your fuzzy filter. Daily vacuuming and weekly pet brushing can go a long way toward reducing this problem.
  • Your fan is set to “on”. There should be two fan settings on your thermostat -- “on” and “auto”. When the fan is set to “auto”, it only blows when your system is actively heating or cooling your home. But when it’s set to “on”, it runs continuously, which means air is passing through that filter 24/7. Switching to the other setting will help you get more life out of your filters.
  • Extreme temperatures. Even if your fan is set to “auto”, extreme hot or cold weather will keep your system running almost continuously. You may need to shorten your replacement intervals until the seasons change.
  • Your filter has a high MERV rating. The higher this rating is, the smaller the particles your filter can trap. An inexpensive fiberglass filter will let smaller particles pass through, so it won’t clog up as quickly as a thick, pleated filter that will catch those particles. Thicker isn’t always better -- it will make your home’s air cleaner and fresher, but it accelerates the wear on your HVAC fan and may lower your system’s energy efficiency. The filters themselves are also more expensive, and you may have to replace them more often. Your HVAC technician can help you weigh your options and choose the best filter for your system and situation.
  • Dusty home. Whether it’s from a recent home construction project or just accumulated dust in seldom-used rooms, anything you don’t vacuum up has a chance of ending up in the filter.

A New Lease on Life

If your filter seems to fill up after just a couple of weeks, one step you can take is to vacuum off the surface of the filter. This doesn’t make the filter clean -- there are still plenty of particles trapped deep within the filtration media -- but it can remove a significant amount of hair and larger particles. It’s an easy step that can help stretch your filter for a few more days.

A more effective solution is to supplement your HVAC system with an air purification system. This system will remove any particles on its own before they can reach your HVAC filter. You should consider air purification if someone in your home has severe allergies or a respiratory condition, or if you have multiple pets.

You can also switch to a reusable filter that can be cleaned regularly with a vacuum attachment or garden hose. To learn more about these alternate filters, air purification systems or other solutions to help make your home air cleaner, reach out to the home comfort experts at your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning.