The Cold Truth: How Often to Change the AC Filters in Your Home

how often should you change your air filterWhen was the last time you changed your AC filters? According to the PHCC, it's a good idea to replace pleated air filters and furnace filters in your home every 120 days. An air filter change goes beyond good maintenance practice, it’s a necessary step for keeping you and your family healthy.

Why? Well, if you’re like most Americans, you spend approximately 90 percent of your time indoors. The indoor air quality of your home is important since you’re breathing it in for the majority of the time.

The only thing more important than your indoor air quality is maintaining that quality.

This goes beyond dusting and vacuuming frequently. Your home air filters keep your home habitable and safe, which is especially if you have pets or children with allergies. 

So, how often should you change your air filter? We’ll cover the answer to that question, explore an air filter’s purpose, and get into the nitty-gritty of different air conditioner filters below. Continue reading to get the lowdown, or skip to the section you want to read by using the navigation links provided.

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Why Do Air Filters Need to Be Changed?

Your AC filters, furnace air filters, and HVAC filters don’t just control the temperature in your home. They are responsible for clean airflow throughout every room in your house and the overall health of the air that you breathe.

What does an air filter do? The better way to phrase that question is, “What doesn’t an air filter do?” These handy pieces of equipment trap particulates and contaminants from the air that you don’t want to breathe in. 

Bacteria, microorganisms, hair, animal fur, dander, metal, plastic, plaster, fibers, dust, mold, dirt, and pollen are all common airborne debris found in a typical household. But that doesn’t mean you want to breathe any of that into your lungs. And that’s where air filters come to the rescue. A good, functioning air filter will effectively filtrate and clean the air so clean, conditioned air can be circulated throughout your home.

One of the most important things you can do for your home is to replace your home air filters regularly. This will keep your air clean, your system intact, and your energy bill low.

So how often should you change your air filter?

There are a few factors that go into answering how often to change your HVAC filter.

In case you lose track of time and forget the last time you did an air filter change, there are a few telltale signs of dirty, ineffective filters. Here’s how to tell if your air filter is bad and needs replacing:

  • Your air filter has become noticeably gray.
  • Built-up dust is clearly visible on the filter media.
  • Your home is more dusty than usual.
  • Your heating or cooling system takes longer to cycle than usual.
  • Your system makes strange noises.
  • You’ll notice an increase in allergy flare-ups or asthma attacks.
  • You’ll notice a musty odor.

Of course, neglecting your AC filter changes can lead to expensive maintenance on your whole HVAC system. Worst case scenario, dirty filters may cause other common A/C issues to crop up or your system may break down. If you’re looking to learn how to improve A/C efficiency, one of the easiest ways to do so is simply by keeping up with routine air filter changes. 

If you’re asking yourself “where is my AC filter?” In most houses, you can find your air conditioning unit in the more utilitarian areas of your home like the attic, basement, closet, or crawlspace. You’ll be able to locate the filter on the top, side, or below the air handler. 

General Air Filter Replacement Guidelines

With all the factors that come into play, the time frame for changing your air filters can get confusing. Here are some general recommendations for changing your AC filters:

  • 6-12 months for unused vacation homes.
  • 4-6 months for single households with no pets.
  • Every 60 days for a single household with pets.
  • Every 90 days for family households with no pets.
  • Every 20 days for a household with multiple pets and/or allergies and asthma.

Of course, if you still can’t remember these general recommendations, keep it simple and change your AC filters every month.

Typical Reasons Why Air Filters Wear Out

The Size of Your Home

If the size of your home is smaller, your air conditioners and furnaces aren’t required to pump as much air to produce a temperature change. This usually means fewer AC filter and furnace air filter changes.

Unless, of course, your air conditioning units or furnaces are smaller in size to accommodate the smaller space. This would mean that your AC filters and furnace filters will be smaller as well and in this case, you would have to change them as regularly as the larger systems.

The Location of Your Home

Do you live in the city or the suburbs? Perhaps somewhere in-between? Aside from keeping the temperature in your home comfortable, your HVAC system is also meant to keep your air inside clean and healthy.

Here’s the deal —in terms of location, you need to consider the quality of the air outside of your home. Cities have much more pollution and the suburbs have much more pollen. The “somewhere in-between” could mean humidity, moisture, and mold.

Regardless of the location, poor air quality will result in a shorter life span for your AC filter.

Also, if you have a vacation home that does not get used often, you won’t have to change the AC filters as frequently. But, you should plan to replace them before each visit.

You and Your Family’s Health

Individuals with allergies or asthma are much more sensitive to airborne particles. HEPA filters are usually recommended for people with these conditions.

If you or someone in your family suffers from allergies or asthma, Then you’ll probably have to change your air filters every six weeks. (HEPA filters last much longer and are used in air purifiers).

If you live in a much more humid climate, the sooner the better. It’s important to keep the quality of your air indoors as clean as possible from mildew and mold spores.

Do You Have Pets?

If you are a dog owner, you know how important it is to keep your home clean to combat shedding. If you’re a cat owner, you know that cats have natural allergens in their fur. Either way, it’s a lot of hair and extra dander.

So if you’re adding pets to the equation, especially with allergies, you’ll need to keep up with changing the air filters every 30 days.

How Often You use Your Air Conditioning

How often you use your AC system is directly related to the climate that you live in. Remember, the longer your system runs, the more dust, dirt, and debris the air filter will catch.

If you live somewhere that experiences all four seasons, you’ll need to keep up with both your AC filters and furnace air filters, as well as preventative HVAC maintenance.

If you live in a more mild climate, you’ll probably only be running your AC or heat for a few hours a day. If this is the case, your filters may last you all season.

The rule of thumb here is to replace your filters seasonally. Once in the fall, once in the winter, and twice in the spring, and twice in the summer. Of course, this depends on the type of air filter you use.

Types of Filters

What are air filters made of? Well, it turns out that there are many different types of AC filters made from different materials. Although it’s true that they will all make your home’s air cleaner, it’s important to understand the differences and why air filter quality matters.

Fiberglass Air Filters

  • Material: As you might guess from the name, these filters are made from fiberglass. 
  • Benefits and drawbacks: These are disposable and the most affordable AC filters. Fiberglass air filters also have the lowest straining capabilities which aren’t the best if you are looking to screen dust and pollutants.
  • Replacement frequency: Fiberglass air filters need to be changed every 30 days.

Pleated Air Filters

  • Material: These are made of polyester or cotton folds.
  • Benefits and drawbacks: Pleated air filters are much more effective at screening dust and pollutants than fiberglass air filters. The more pleats, the better the filtering performance.
  • Replacement frequency: Depending on the quality, pleated air filters need to be changed up to every six months.

Washable Air Filters

  • Material: Washable filters are usually made from woven electrostatic fibers.
  • Benefits and drawbacks: Washable air filters are great in theory because you don’t have to replace them. You have to wash and dry them thoroughly to avoid mold issues. Unfortunately, these air filters aren’t as good at effectively filtering out microparticles, pet dander, smoke, bacteria, and viruses. These are better for households with no pets or bad allergies since they only catch large dust particles.
  • Replacement frequency:  In most cases, you’ll still need to replace these washable air filters every 90 days.

Electrostatic Air Filters

  • Material: These filters are made with polyurethane and polypropylene blended fibers.
  • Benefits and drawbacks: These air filters use an electrostatic charge to attract dust and airborne particles. This keeps debris from floating around your home. There are also re-usable washable options. However, these filters tend to do a poor job at catching the smaller particles and mold spores. 
  • Replacement frequency: They need to be replaced every two to six months.

HEPA Air Filters

  • Material: HEPA air filters are usually made from plastic fibers or borosilicate glass fibers.
  • Benefits and drawbacks: High-Efficiency Particle Air filters (HEPA) are great for people with allergies or asthma. They are capable of screening 99.97% of debris which is why they are recommended by the US Department of Energy. These filters come with fine mesh traps that catch all of the pollen, dust, and even smoke that come into your home. Unfortunately, HEPA filters work better in air purifiers. While you can purchase them as your AC filters, they won’t work as efficiently due to a lack of fan power. This poses an additional cost, but it’s necessary if you or someone in your family suffers from asthma.
  • Replacement frequency: HEPA air filters are pricey, but they don’t need to be replaced for three to five years.

UV Air Filters

  • Material: UV light is used in addition to other filters and filter systems.
  • Benefits and drawbacks: These filters use ultraviolet light to kill bacteria, viruses, mold, and odors in your home. They will work best in conjunction with an HVAC system that is designed for higher static pressure since they won’t screen dust particles or pollen. You can think of them as an air purifier within your ventilation system. 
  • Replacement frequency: These can last up to 12 months.

Keep in mind that the type of filter you choose will depend on where you live, the number of people and pets in your home, and the overall health of you and your family.

Your Indoor Air Quality is Important

Your indoor air quality is as important as the outdoor air quality of where you live. The AC filters you choose are the key to keeping your indoor air healthy. If you’re not sure how to replace an air filter or if you have any other concerns, make sure to reach out to a professional for health your family’s health is priceless.

If you’re in Seattle and have any heating or air conditioning concerns, contact us. We’ll be more than happy to assist you.

When was the last time you changed your AC filters? According to the PHCC, it's a good idea to replace pleated air filters and furnace filters in your home every 120 days. An air filter change goes beyond good maintenance practice, it’s a necessary step for keeping you and your family healthy.

Why? Well, if you’re like most Americans, you spend approximately 90 percent of your time indoors. The indoor air quality of your home is important since you’re breathing it in for the majority of the time.

The only thing more important than your indoor air quality is maintaining that quality.

This goes beyond dusting and vacuuming frequently. Your home air filters keep your home habitable and safe, which is especially if you have pets or children with allergies. 

So, how often should you change your air filter? We’ll cover the answer to that question, explore an air filter’s purpose, and get into the nitty-gritty of different air conditioner filters below. Continue reading to get the lowdown, or skip to the section you want to read by using the navigation links provided.

Why Do Air Filters Need to Be Changed?

Your AC filters, furnace air filters, and HVAC filters don’t just control the temperature in your home. They are responsible for clean airflow throughout every room in your house and the overall health of the air that you breathe.

What does an air filter do? The better way to phrase that question is, “What doesn’t an air filter do?” These handy pieces of equipment trap particulates and contaminants from the air that you don’t want to breathe in. 

Bacteria, microorganisms, hair, animal fur, dander, metal, plastic, plaster, fibers, dust, mold, dirt, and pollen are all common airborne debris found in a typical household. But that doesn’t mean you want to breathe any of that into your lungs. And that’s where air filters come to the rescue. A good, functioning air filter will effectively filtrate and clean the air so clean, conditioned air can be circulated throughout your home.

One of the most important things you can do for your home is to replace your home air filters regularly. This will keep your air clean, your system intact, and your energy bill low.

So how often should you change your air filter?

There are a few factors that go into answering how often to change your HVAC filter.

In case you lose track of time and forget the last time you did an air filter change, there are a few telltale signs of dirty, ineffective filters. Here’s how to tell if your air filter is bad and needs replacing:

  • Your air filter has become noticeably gray.
  • Built-up dust is clearly visible on the filter media.
  • Your home is more dusty than usual.
  • Your heating or cooling system takes longer to cycle than usual.
  • Your system makes strange noises.
  • You’ll notice an increase in allergy flare-ups or asthma attacks.
  • You’ll notice a musty odor.

Of course, neglecting your AC filter changes can lead to expensive maintenance on your whole HVAC system. Worst case scenario, dirty filters may cause other common A/C issues to crop up or your system may break down. If you’re looking to learn how to improve A/C efficiency, one of the easiest ways to do so is simply by keeping up with routine air filter changes. 

If you’re asking yourself “where is my AC filter?” In most houses, you can find your air conditioning unit in the more utilitarian areas of your home like the attic, basement, closet, or crawlspace. You’ll be able to locate the filter on the top, side, or below the air handler. 

General Air Filter Replacement Guidelines

With all the factors that come into play, the time frame for changing your air filters can get confusing. Here are some general recommendations for changing your AC filters:

  • 6-12 months for unused vacation homes.
  • 4-6 months for single households with no pets.
  • Every 60 days for a single household with pets.
  • Every 90 days for family households with no pets.
  • Every 20 days for a household with multiple pets and/or allergies and asthma.

Of course, if you still can’t remember these general recommendations, keep it simple and change your AC filters every month.

Typical Reasons Why Air Filters Wear Out

The Size of Your Home

If the size of your home is smaller, your air conditioners and furnaces aren’t required to pump as much air to produce a temperature change. This usually means fewer AC filter and furnace air filter changes.

Unless, of course, your air conditioning units or furnaces are smaller in size to accommodate the smaller space. This would mean that your AC filters and furnace filters will be smaller as well and in this case, you would have to change them as regularly as the larger systems.

The Location of Your Home

Do you live in the city or the suburbs? Perhaps somewhere in-between? Aside from keeping the temperature in your home comfortable, your HVAC system is also meant to keep your air inside clean and healthy.

Here’s the deal —in terms of location, you need to consider the quality of the air outside of your home. Cities have much more pollution and the suburbs have much more pollen. The “somewhere in-between” could mean humidity, moisture, and mold.

Regardless of the location, poor air quality will result in a shorter life span for your AC filter.

Also, if you have a vacation home that does not get used often, you won’t have to change the AC filters as frequently. But, you should plan to replace them before each visit.

You and Your Family’s Health

Individuals with allergies or asthma are much more sensitive to airborne particles. HEPA filters are usually recommended for people with these conditions.

If you or someone in your family suffers from allergies or asthma, Then you’ll probably have to change your air filters every six weeks. (HEPA filters last much longer and are used in air purifiers).

If you live in a much more humid climate, the sooner the better. It’s important to keep the quality of your air indoors as clean as possible from mildew and mold spores.

Do You Have Pets?

If you are a dog owner, you know how important it is to keep your home clean to combat shedding. If you’re a cat owner, you know that cats have natural allergens in their fur. Either way, it’s a lot of hair and extra dander.

So if you’re adding pets to the equation, especially with allergies, you’ll need to keep up with changing the air filters every 30 days.

How Often You use Your Air Conditioning

How often you use your AC system is directly related to the climate that you live in. Remember, the longer your system runs, the more dust, dirt, and debris the air filter will catch.

If you live somewhere that experiences all four seasons, you’ll need to keep up with both your AC filters and furnace air filters, as well as preventative HVAC maintenance.

If you live in a more mild climate, you’ll probably only be running your AC or heat for a few hours a day. If this is the case, your filters may last you all season.

The rule of thumb here is to replace your filters seasonally. Once in the fall, once in the winter, and twice in the spring, and twice in the summer. Of course, this depends on the type of air filter you use.

Types of Filters

What are air filters made of? Well, it turns out that there are many different types of AC filters made from different materials. Although it’s true that they will all make your home’s air cleaner, it’s important to understand the differences and why air filter quality matters.

Fiberglass Air Filters

  • Material: As you might guess from the name, these filters are made from fiberglass. 
  • Benefits and drawbacks: These are disposable and the most affordable AC filters. Fiberglass air filters also have the lowest straining capabilities which aren’t the best if you are looking to screen dust and pollutants.
  • Replacement frequency: Fiberglass air filters need to be changed every 30 days.

Pleated Air Filters

  • Material: These are made of polyester or cotton folds.
  • Benefits and drawbacks: Pleated air filters are much more effective at screening dust and pollutants than fiberglass air filters. The more pleats, the better the filtering performance.
  • Replacement frequency: Depending on the quality, pleated air filters need to be changed up to every six months.

Washable Air Filters

  • Material: Washable filters are usually made from woven electrostatic fibers.
  • Benefits and drawbacks: Washable air filters are great in theory because you don’t have to replace them. You have to wash and dry them thoroughly to avoid mold issues. Unfortunately, these air filters aren’t as good at effectively filtering out microparticles, pet dander, smoke, bacteria, and viruses. These are better for households with no pets or bad allergies since they only catch large dust particles.
  • Replacement frequency:  In most cases, you’ll still need to replace these washable air filters every 90 days.

Electrostatic Air Filters

  • Material: These filters are made with polyurethane and polypropylene blended fibers.
  • Benefits and drawbacks: These air filters use an electrostatic charge to attract dust and airborne particles. This keeps debris from floating around your home. There are also re-usable washable options. However, these filters tend to do a poor job at catching the smaller particles and mold spores. 
  • Replacement frequency: They need to be replaced every two to six months.

HEPA Air Filters

  • Material: HEPA air filters are usually made from plastic fibers or borosilicate glass fibers.
  • Benefits and drawbacks: High-Efficiency Particle Air filters (HEPA) are great for people with allergies or asthma. They are capable of screening 99.97% of debris which is why they are recommended by the US Department of Energy. These filters come with fine mesh traps that catch all of the pollen, dust, and even smoke that come into your home. Unfortunately, HEPA filters work better in air purifiers. While you can purchase them as your AC filters, they won’t work as efficiently due to a lack of fan power. This poses an additional cost, but it’s necessary if you or someone in your family suffers from asthma.
  • Replacement frequency: HEPA air filters are pricey, but they don’t need to be replaced for three to five years.

UV Air Filters

  • Material: UV light is used in addition to other filters and filter systems.
  • Benefits and drawbacks: These filters use ultraviolet light to kill bacteria, viruses, mold, and odors in your home. They will work best in conjunction with an HVAC system that is designed for higher static pressure since they won’t screen dust particles or pollen. You can think of them as an air purifier within your ventilation system. 
  • Replacement frequency: These can last up to 12 months.

Keep in mind that the type of filter you choose will depend on where you live, the number of people and pets in your home, and the overall health of you and your family.

Your Indoor Air Quality is Important

Your indoor air quality is as important as the outdoor air quality of where you live. The AC filters you choose are the key to keeping your indoor air healthy. If you’re not sure how to replace an air filter or if you have any other concerns, make sure to reach out to a professional for health your family’s health is priceless.

If you’re in Seattle and have any heating or air conditioning concerns, contact us. We’ll be more than happy to assist you.