Why and When Should I Change My Air Filter?

Many people are somewhat confused when it comes to ‘why’ they should replace the air filter in their HVAC system, and also ‘how often’. Some even think that air filters are optional, or that unscrupulous service companies exaggerate their importance to try to squeeze more money out of their customers.

First of all, the air filter in your heating and cooling system is not optional. Why not? To put it simply: Not using an air filter will ruin your system. That is not an exaggeration. That is the truth.

We realize that some types of air filters can be expensive, but only because they focus more on your family’s health which requires more than what is needed to protect your system. Those types may be optional, but your system must have some type of air filter, and it must be changed regularly. We’ll explain a little more about ‘Why change it’, but first ‘When’.

The frequency depends on several factors. Air filters only get dirty when the circulating fan in your system is running. So when the weather is very hot or cold they will get dirty faster since the fan will be running more. Here are some other factors are:

  1. How many people are in the home? More people generate more dust and lint.
  2. Are there pets in the home with fur or hair? Pet hair, fur, and dander will end up in the filter.
  3. Are there smokers in the home? Smoking generates particles that will quickly fill an air filter.
  4. What type of air filter do you use? Some are designed to last longer than others. 

You will have to learn from experience how often is best for your home. But here is method to get you started. Start by checking it after 30 days. When you check it, pull out the filter and hold it beside the clean filter that you have ready to use if needed. If they look different then it is time to change the air filter. Not all dust is ‘dirty’, so even if it looks slightly dirty it could be filled up. Please don’t wait until it looks horrible before you replace it! But if it seems okay, check it in another 30 days. Over time you will notice a pattern of how often your filter needs to be replaced depending on the time of year.

Even if you hardly run your system, or if your house is extremely clean, at the very least you should replace the air filter twice a year: at the start of the heating season and at the start of the cooling season. This is part of the system tune-up and safety check that we perform. Contact us at (310) 651-6936 or use our online form to schedule a visit.

If you have a washable filter then it should be washed monthly, unless it really still looks clean. Be sure to follow the instructions you received with your washable filter. Not following the instructions could result in damaging the filter, or making it less effective. Be aware that washable filters don’t last forever. At some point it will need to be replaced.

So what about ‘Why change’ your air filter? Three reasons:

  1. Efficiency – Dirty air filters restrict air flow which forces your system to use more energy to heat or cool your home. Changing the air filter regularly will save you more money in energy costs than the money you might save by skimping on air filters.
  2. Protect your system – A dirty air filter makes the equipment work harder than it should causing unnecessary wear and tear or even damage from overheating.
  3. Health – At some point your air filter will fill up and allow dust and lint to pass right through, aggravating asthma and allergy symptoms. If dust and pet dander get pulled through the filter and into your system they will continue to contribute to poor indoor air quality even after the filter has been changed.

If you have any questions, give GAMA Air a call at (310) 651-6936, or visit our Ask an Expert page.

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