When to Change Your Heater Air Filter (And How to Find It)
With fall approaching, now’s the time to make sure your heater is in great shape. Getting a tune-up is an essential part of making that happen. But, first is something you can do on your own: Change your air filter. To do it, you need to know how to find it — and how often to swap it out.
It’s an important way to keep your heater in good shape. It also goes a long way when it comes to indoor air quality. The best part? It’s simple and inexpensive. All you need to know where to look and what to do.
In this post, we’ll cover finding your air filter and how to change it. Then, we’ll look at how often you should do it. Finally, we’ll let you know if you need any special filters or if the regular ones will do.
What Happens if I Don’t Change My Air Filter?
Your air filter is responsible for preventing debris, dust, and other junk from getting into your heater and spreading through your house. It acts as a screen, and all that stuff sticks to it instead of moving through the system. But, when it gets clogged, you start having problems.
Even though the screen blocks debris, it needs to let air flow through it. Otherwise, you won’t get any circulation through the house.
So, the first problems you notice are weak heat and higher bills.
When the forced air can’t make it to the ducts, that’s less warmth you get throughout the house. It’s just not making it to the vents.
Meanwhile, the system is working harder to make that “force” part work. This effort requires it to use more energy to do it. So, that’s more gas, oil or electricity you pay for every month.
Usually, the problem stops there. But, if you leave it go for too long, it gets even worse.
Eventually, that strain causes extra wear and tear on the system. Now you run the risk of a breakdown — most likely in the dead of winter.
And, the last problem is the worst.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Eventually, all that hot air backs up into the heater itself. It’s not supposed to get that hot inside it.
If you ever notice the system blowing cold air in the winter, it’s trying to cool itself down.
But, that excessive heat and sudden temperature changes wear down the heat exchanger until it cracks. And it can’t be fixed. You run the risk of a carbon monoxide leak.
Once this happens, the heater gets red-tagged, and you have to get a new one.
It’s a huge problem, but you can avoid it.
How Often Should I Change My Heater Air Filter?
Generally, change your heater air filter once a season. So, every three months or so. That’s especially important if you have central air using the same ductwork. But, some circumstances make a difference.
Change it more often if your home has:
- Furry Pets
- Allergy Sufferers
Let’s look at why.
Cats and dogs are cute and fun. But, they also leave behind fur and dander. That makes its way into your vents. And, when it hits your filter, it clogs the screen much quicker than in houses without any four-legged friends.
You’re probably already vacuuming much more than other people to keep it from getting out of hand. That’s good for your ductwork, too.
But, it’s likely still affecting the system. So, put a new one in every eight weeks. And, keep an eye on the screen. It goes in white. If it’s dark grey when it comes out, swap it out even more frequently.
Dust and pollen trigger seasonal allergy symptoms. So, the more you do to get them out of the house, the better you or your loved ones feel.
This time, go down to every six weeks for a new screen. And, consider upgrading from the standard models.
More high-end products will block smaller particles. A lot of times, pollen and mold spores — another trigger — make it through the filter.
So, look for ones rated for allergies. Or, check the MERV rating. The higher the number, the smaller the particles it blocks.
Just don’t go overboard: Eventually, it starts making it hard for air to get through, too.
Smoke affects way more than your HVAC system. But, we’re only focusing on that for now.
Particles in cigarette or tobacco smoke get trapped in the screen just like dust and dirt. So, the more of that you have in the house, the faster the filter gets clocked.
Six weeks or more frequently is the way to go here. But, that’s only part of the problem.
Residuals from tobacco smoke stick around in your house for a long, long time. An activated carbon filter can get rid of most of the odor. And, an air purifier will eliminate more toxins.
But, nothing gets rid of all of it — expect smoking outside instead.
Where Is My Heater Air Filter?
Ok, we’ve gone over the why’s and when’s. Now, let’s look at the how.
Changing the filter is easy. It’s not inside the unit. Nor is it fastened or bolted down or anything.
You just need to know where to look.
Most times, it’s right on the outside of the unit, near the floor. Look for an enclosure that juts out. Or, an open slot on the unit.
Once you find it, carefully reach in. If you feel the cardboard frame around the screen, you’ve got it!
Slowly and gently pull it out. As we said, it’s not fastened to anything. You don’t want the fabric to catch on anything.
Finding the Right Size Filter
Now that you’ve got the screen out, look for numbers on the cardboard. They’re formatted like this: “10x20x2.”
That’s ten inches tall, 20 inches across, and two inches deep.
Different heaters use different sizes, but most are widely available in any hardware store.
Once you’ve got a new one, take out the old, used screen and slide in the clean one. And, that’s it!
Of course, if you do run into any problems, or you’re concerned about your home’s air quality, give Bovio a call! With decades of experience near Medford, Sicklerville and other South Jersey towns, we know all about the usual problems in homes around here — and how to fix them.
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