Selecting the right furnace filter and changing it when it becomes dirty is as important to your HVAC system as changing the oil is to your car. Each plays a vital role in keeping its system running safely, efficiently and for a long time.
A dirty furnace filter loses its effectiveness, permitting potentially harmful particles to move through your home. It also slows airflow, which can damage your furnace and reduce its life span.
Making sure your furnace uses a clean filter that is suitable for your needs is not merely about keeping your furnace running efficiently. It’s also about providing excellent indoor air quality for your home.
The health of your family is important to the HVAC professionals at I-Deal HVAC. We've long focused on improving indoor air quality in Albuquerque. Here, we’ve answered frequent questions about HVAC filters, including that particularly tricky question of what direction do you point a filter in your furnace or air conditioner?
When Should I Replace My Furnace Air Filter?
It is important to replace dirty air filters in a furnace or air conditioner periodically. Dirty filters cause the system to worker harder than it should because it takes more energy to pull air through the plugged-up filter.
Officials advise inspecting your furnace filter every 30 days and replacing it if it’s dirty. You’ll know if the filter needs to be changed because it will coated with dirt or dust. People who have pets will probably need to replace their furnace air filter more often, because an effective air filter will trap pet hair circulating in a home.
How to Find the Furnace's Air Filter
In general, a furnace air filter is commonly found in the return air duct or blower compartment before the return air reaches the furnace. This is so air being pulled into the system is filtered before it moves through the furnace components and is heated.
Depending on the furnace model, the filter may be found on the right, left, bottom or in some cases, inside the furnace. It's typically housed inside of a slot, frame or cabinet for easy access and replacement. Always refer to your furnace's owner manual for facts about filter location of your particular brand and model of furnace.
Is a Furnace Filter the Same as an Air Filter?
The straightforward answer is, yes. In HVAC, a furnace filter and an air filter or air conditioner filter are effectively the same. While people may call them different things based on the current season— hot or cold—they are all filters that clean the air in your residence.
They each eliminate dust, allergens, bacteria and other airborne debris from the air that is drawn into the furnace and air conditioning system, ensuring the air flowing through your home is clean and safe.
What Is the MERV Rating System and What MERV Rating Do I Need?
Once you track down your old furnace filter and figure out when it should be replaced, it’s time to select a replacement. That means picking the level of filtration that you need. One way to do that is by selecting an appropriate MERV rating for your needs.
MERV is an abbreviation for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values. The MERV rating measures the effectiveness of air filters at trapping airborne contaminants. The rating scale ranges from 1 to 20, with greater numbers indicating a greater ability to filter tinier particles.
Experts say a filter with a MERV rating between 8 and 13 offers a good balance between having healthy indoor air quality without overly restricting airflow. However, people with specific health conditions might need a a higher MERV rating.
Where to Insert the Air Filter in a Furnace or Air Conditioner
Positioning an air filter in a furnace or air conditioner correctly is crucial for the efficient operation of the unit. Air filters are designed to be installed in a certain direction, indicated by an arrow printed on the side of the filter frame. The filter should be put in with this arrow pointing at the furnace or air conditioning unit, which is the direction of the airflow. If you're doubtful about the airflow direction, try to remember that air always moves from the return duct and then to the heat or cooling source. Therefore, make sure the arrow points at the furnace or AC.
Many people have difficulty remembering which direction to point an air filter. To help remember, consider snapping a quick photo with your mobile phone after the filter has been correctly installed by a professional. Or, you also could ask a technician to use a marker to write on the outside of your furnace which direction the filter should go. A great time to inquire about this is during a regular furnace maintenance visit.
How to Change a Furnace Air Filter
Switching out the filter on your furnace or AC is a quick and easy process. Here is a step-by-step list of how to retreive a dirty air filter and swap it for a new one:
- Turn off your furnace: Be sure to shut off your furnace before starting up the process.
- Find the furnace filter: Typically, the filter is positioned in the furnace or in the air return vent. Make note of which direction the arrow points on the filter, because you’ll want the arrow on the clean filter to point similarly.
- Take out the old filter: Be careful not to knock out any dust or particles.
- Note the date: Write down the date of replacement on the new filter's frame. This will make it easier to keep track of when it's time for another replacement.
- Insert new filter: Put in the new filter with the arrow pointing toward the furnace, which is the direction of airflow and should be the same direction the arrow pointed on the dirty filter you just removed.
- Secure the filter: Make sure the new filter fits securely and close any latches or clips that hold it in place.
- Turn on your furnace: Once the replacement filter is properly secured, you can turn your furnace back on.
Will a Dirty Air Filter Cause a Furnace Not to Work?
The short answer is, yes, a dirty air filter can cause a furnace to quit working or shorten its lifespan. Changing your furnace or air conditioning filter is one of the best things you can do to keep your system operating efficiently.