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Breathe Easy: The Importance of Changing Your Air Filter and How Often to Do It

January 06, 2023

Female hand changing an air filter

If you're anything like me, you probably don't think about your air filter all that often. I mean, it's not exactly the most exciting part of your home or office's air circulation system. But believe it or not, air filters are pretty important. They help to remove dust, pollen, and other particles from the air, making it safer and more comfortable to breathe. And while they may not be the most exciting, they do require some maintenance – specifically, they need to be changed every once in a while.

But how often should you change your air filter? That's a question that has plagued humans for centuries (or at least it feels that way). Luckily, we have some answers for you. But before we dive into the specifics, let's talk about why it's important to change your air filter in the first place.

First and foremost, a dirty air filter can reduce the efficiency of your HVAC system. Think about it like this: your air filter is like a sieve that strains out all the dirt and dust in your air. If it gets too clogged up, it can't do its job as well, which means your HVAC system has to work harder to circulate air throughout your home or office. And when your HVAC system has to work harder, it uses more energy, which can lead to higher energy bills. So not only is a dirty air filter gross, but it's also bad for your wallet.

A dirty air filter can also contribute to indoor air pollution. When your air filter gets clogged, it can't remove as many pollutants from the air, which means you're breathing in more dust, pollen, and other icky stuff. And if you have allergies or other respiratory issues, this can be a big problem. The American Lung Association recommends using an air filter with a high MERV (learn more on filter ratings) rating to help improve indoor air quality (1).

So, how often should you change your air filter? The answer isn't one-size-fits-all, as the frequency of air filter replacement depends on a variety of factors. Here are some things to consider when determining how often to change your air filter:

  1. The type of air filter you use: Different types of air filters have different lifespans. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, disposable fiberglass filters should be replaced every 30-60 days, while washable metal filters can last up to a year (2). However, it's worth noting that some experts recommend replacing disposable fiberglass filters every month, especially if you have pets or live in an area with poor air quality (3).
  2. The quality of your air: If you live in an area with poor air quality, or if you have allergies or other respiratory issues, you may need to change your air filter more frequently. This is because a dirty air filter can contribute to these problems, so replacing it regularly can help to improve your indoor air quality (4).
  3. The usage of your air filter: If you use your air filter heavily, you may need to change it more frequently. This is especially true if you have pets, as pet dander and fur can clog up the filter quickly (5).

So, how often should you change your air filter? Here are some general guidelines:
For disposable fiberglass filters: every 30-60 days (2)
For washable metal filters: every 3-6 months (2)
For high-efficiency pleated filters: every 3-6 months (2)
For activated carbon filters: every 6-12 months (2)

It's important to note that these are just general guidelines, and the actual frequency of air filter replacement will depend on your specific circumstances. If you're not sure how often to change your air filter, it's a good idea to consult the manufacturer's recommendations or ask a professional.

There are a few signs that it's time to change your air filter, even if it hasn't been the recommended amount of time. If you notice that your air filter is visibly dirty or clogged, or if your airflow seems to be reduced, it's time to replace the filter. You should also consider changing your air filter if you start to notice an increase in allergy symptoms or other respiratory issues, as a dirty air filter can contribute to these problems (6).

Changing your air filter is an important part of maintaining your home or office's air circulation system. By following the guidelines above and paying attention to the condition of your air filter, you can ensure that you're breathing clean, healthy air. And if you're like me and have a tendency to forget things, don't forget to mark your calendar or set a reminder to change your air filter regularly, so you don't forget!

Now, I know what you're thinking: changing your air filter sounds like a real chore. But trust me, it's actually pretty easy. Most air filters are located in your HVAC system's air handler or furnace, and they can usually be accessed by removing a panel or opening a door. Simply locate your air filter, remove it, and replace it with a new one. It's as simple as that. Just make sure you choose the right size and type of air filter for your system, and you're good to go.

In summary, it's important to know how often to change your air filter to ensure that it's working effectively and to maintain the overall health of your home or office's air circulation system. While the frequency of air filter replacement will depend on a variety of factors, following the guidelines above and paying attention to the condition of your filter can help you determine the best schedule for your specific needs. And remember, changing your air filter may not be the most exciting task, but it's important for your health and your wallet. So don't forget to mark your calendar or set a reminder to change your air filter regularly!

Sources:

  1. American Lung Association. (n.d.). How to Choose and Use an Air Cleaner. Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/clean-air/home/resources/air-cleaner-faq.html

  2. U.S. Department of Energy. (n.d.). Energy Saver | How to Save Money and Energy at Home. Retrieved from https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/save-money-and-energy/home-improvement/home-heating-and-cooling

  3. Consumer Reports. (2019, April 24). How Often Should You Replace Your Air Filters? Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/indoor-air-quality/how-often-should-you-replace-your-air-filters/

  4. Indoor Air Quality Association. (n.d.). Air Filters. Retrieved from https://www.iaqa.org/air-filters/

  5. This Old House. (n.d.). When to Replace the Air Filter in Your Home. Retrieved from https://www.thisoldhouse.com/air-filters/21017768/when-to-replace-the-air-filter-in-your-home

  6. University of Minnesota Extension. (2019, June 10). How Often Should You Change Your Air Filter? Retrieved from https://www.extension.umn.edu/home-health-and-safety/how-often-should-you-change-your-air-filter/




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