Air filters are an extremely important part of a heating and air conditioning system. The air filters within HVAC systems have the role of keeping dust, debris, and other particulates from collecting inside the HVAC system and duct system. HVAC air filters are the first line of defense to keep particulates and other objects from entering the HVAC system. In addition to filters keeping debris from entering the HVAC system, some air filters also play a key role in promoting healthy air.
In Kansas, it’s unheard of to live in a home without an air conditioning system as air conditioning is a necessity during the warm summer months. However, many homeowners tend to neglect regular air conditioning maintenance and repair needs.
HVAC systems are an investment worth taking care of. Keeping your HVAC system serviced, including replacing air filters regularly, is worth the effort. Clogged air filters are one of the top causes of HVAC system failure.
Changing Your AC Filter
How Often Should You Change HVAC Filters?
It’s a common question: “How often should you change air filters?” There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the answer depends on a variety of factors. In general, most experts recommend replacing air filters every 90 days (or 3 months). However, if you have pets in your home, live in a dusty area or a high-pollen area, we recommend replacing your air filters on a monthly basis.
It’s important to take the time to replace your HVAC system’s air filters as necessary based on your home’s conditions because all of the air handled by an HVAC system must pass through the system’s air filter. When an air filter becomes full of pet dander, dust, dirt, etc., the more difficult it is for air to pass through which causes your HVAC system to work harder to push air.
Keep in mind, there are many different air filters available on the market with a variety of differing features. High efficiency filters are designed to keep small bacteria and mold out of the air, whereas, standard air filters only block larger particles.
How to Change Your HVAC Filter
It’s relatively simple to replace the air filters in an HVAC system.
- Locate the Air Handler Cabinet. The first step in replacing your HVAC system’s air filter is to locate the cabinet where your HVAC system’s air filters are located. This location can vary. When in doubt, always refer to the manual that came with your HVAC system, which will show you where your air filters are located and the specific filter that is recommended for your heating and cooling system.
- Determine the Proper Size of Air Filter. Before you replace your HVAC filters, be sure that you are replacing the filters with the correct size for your HVAC system. When in doubt, refer to your HVAC system’s manual or call your local HVAC company. Generally, a cardboard frame will surround air filters with the size listed directly on the cardboard frame.
- Replace the Filter. Once you have purchased the correct air filter for your HVAC system, you’ll need to remove the old air filter. Before removing the existing (old) air filter, look out for the arrow on the filter frame that shows the correct airflow direction. The airflow direction arrow on the filter frame should be pointed towards the fan unit.
Types of Air Conditioner Filters
There are a variety of air filters to choose from, including types, sizes, and MERV or efficiency ratings.
Air Filter MERV Ratings
MERV stands for “Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values” which refers to a filter’s ability to capture particulates. MERV ratings help us understand the performance of various filters. The higher the MERV rating the better the filter is at trapping particles. Keep reading to learn more about MERV air filter ratings:
- MERV 1-4. Air filters with MERV ratings between 1-4 help control pollen, dust mites, sanding dust, textile fibers, and filter down to 10.0 micron particle size.
- MERV 5-8. Air filters with MERV ratings between 5-8 help control pollen, dust mites, sanding dust, textile fibers, mold/spores, dust lint, and cement dust, and filter down 3.0-10.0 micron particle size.
- MERV 9-12. Air filters with MERV ratings between 9-12 help control pollen, dust mites, sanding dust, textile fibers, mold/spores, dust lint, cement dust, legionella, lead dust, humidifier dust, coal dust, and nebulizer dust, and filter down 1.0-3.0 micron particle size.
- MERV 13-16. Air filters with MERV ratings between 13-16 help control pollen, dust mites, sanding dust, textile fibers, mold/spores, dust lint, cement dust, legionella, lead dust, humidifier dust, coal dust, nebulizer dust, bacteria, tobacco smoke, auto fumes, insecticide dust, copier toner, and pet dander, and filters down 0.3-1.0 micron particle size. These ratings are often found in medical facilities.
- MERV 17-20. Air filters with MERV ratings between 17-20 help control pollen, dust mites, sanding dust, textile fibers, mold/spores, dust lint, cement dust, legionella, lead dust, humidifier dust, coal dust, nebulizer dust, bacteria, tobacco smoke, auto fumes, insecticide dust, copier toner, pet dander, virus carriers, carbon dust, combustion smoke, odor, and microscopic allergens, and filter down to less than 0.30 micron particle size. These ratings are also often found in medical facilities.
(Sources: https://www.grainger.com/know-how/equipment-information/kh-what-is-merv-rating-air-filter-rating-chart; https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/what-merv-rating)
AC Filter Materials
There are a variety of air filter materials available, such as: fiberglass air filters, pleated air filters, HEPA filters, and UV filters. The best air conditioner filters for you will depend on your particular HVAC system and air quality desires.
Fiberglass Air Filters
Fiberglass air filters are among the most affordable options available to consumers. They are disposable filters that filter large particles. These filters do not filter out smaller contaminants and typically have a MERV 4 rating. Fiberglass filters are likely not a good option if you suffer from allergies or respiratory issues.
Pleated Air Filters
Pleated air filters are made with folded fabric and can be found with MERV ratings between 5 and 13. These filters are a good option as they have more surface area to allow for better filtration and stopping dust and airborne pollutants from entering into the HVAC system. Pleated air filters do not have to be replaced as often as fiberglass air filters.
HEPA filters are great air filters that help remove small and large particles, including bacteria, cigarette smoke, mold, and allergens. HEPA filters generally have MERV ratings of 16 or higher. These filters cost more, but do not have to be replaced as often as the other filters discussed above. HEPA filters are recommended for individuals with allergies and respiratory issues.
UV filters are ultraviolet light filters that kill bacteria and viruses using a UV lamp. Keep in mind, UV filters are air cleaners that are built into your HVAC system and should be professionally installed. UV filters help remove harmful pollutants such as germs and mold. If you are concerned about air quality, then this is a great product to look into. [Link to air cleaner page].
Help Choosing an Air Conditioner Filter
At Larry Cook Heating & Cooling, we highly recommend our customers reach out to us when trying to find the best air filter for their HVAC system. While it is easy to change your HVAC filters, it is important that the correct size and type is selected for your particular HVAC system. Currently, the most common HVAC filter size is 10×20.
Larry Cook Heating & Cooling offers HVAC maintenance services that include changing your air filter. To schedule an HVAC maintenance appointment, discuss maintenance plans or to simply get answers to questions you might still have about AC filters, please contact us at 316-322-5668.