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How Often Should You Clean or Replace Your HVAC Air Filter?


The air filter is one of the essential components of your HVAC system. Sure it may not seem like much, but a dirty filter can lead to a world of problems including poor air quality in your home and a broken furnace. To ensure your HVAC system continues running in top shape, you need to replace or clean your air filter regularly. How often depends on the type of filter you have.


Types of Air Filter

There are several types of air filter for your HVAC system, and which kind you have will affect how often you need to check it and whether you can clean and reuse it or replace it.


Fiberglass filter

Spun fiberglass filters are made to be cheap and disposable. The good news is, they are easy to replace. Simply remove the old filter and slot in the new. The bad news is, they do not filter out finer particles in the air, so although they keep your furnace clean, they don’t do much for your indoor air quality. These filters should be replaced according to the schedule recommended by the manufacturer, but should be checked at least every month to ensure they haven’t accumulated too much dirt. If dirty, go ahead and replace it.


Pleated filter

Pleated filters are slightly up the pay scale from fiberglass filters, but are still intended as a fairly cheap, disposable option. The improvement with pleated filters over fiberglass is the filtration rate. Pleated filters can provide up to eight times the filtering capability of a fiberglass filter. Some manufacturers may recommend replacing pleated filters every three months, but be sure to check every month for dirt buildup.


Washable electrostatic filter

Washable filters are just what the name implies. Rather than disposing the old filter and replacing with a new one each time, these filters can be cleaned and reused. To clean, use a garden hose to spray the dirt buildup off the filter. Repeat more than once if the filter is very dirty. Be sure to not use too much water pressure, or you might damage the filter. Once the filter is clean, let it dry before reinstalling. In addition to being reusable, washable filters have a higher filtration capacity than the disposable kind, making them a worthwhile investment for many homeowners.


Electric and mass media filter

Electric and mass media filters are the top of the line, providing excellent filtration for your HVAC system. However, these filters should be installed by a professional and often require modification to the ductwork of your home. Many people find the cost to be worth it though for the improved particle filtration and longevity.


Whatever type of filter you use, you should always follow the manufacturer's guidelines for cleaning and replacement to ensure your HVAC unit runs smoothly. Keep in mind when checking and replacing your filters that some larger HVAC systems may have more than one filter, so be sure to check all of them. Also keep in mind that filters are often directional, meaning if they aren’t placed with the correct side facing towards the furnace, they may not be working. Check your filter for arrows indicating which way to correctly install them. If you’re not sure how to correctly change your filter, you can always call a professional technician to walk you through the process.

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