Choosing the right furnace filter and changing it when it gets dirty is as important to your HVAC system as changing the oil is to your car. Each plays a vital part in keeping its system operating safely, efficiently and for a long time.
A dirty furnace filter loses its effectiveness, allowing potentially harmful particles to flow through your home. It also limits airflow, which can damage your furnace and reduce its life span.
Making certain your furnace uses a clean filter that is appropriate for your needs is not merely about keeping your furnace working efficiently. It’s also about creating good indoor air quality for your residence.
The health of your family is important to the heating and cooling specialists at Home Furniture, Plumbing & Heating. We've long worked with an eye on improving indoor air quality in Kankakee. Here, we’ve answered frequent questions about HVAC filters, including that very tricky question of what direction do you point a filter in your furnace or air conditioner?
How Often to Replace the Air Filter in a Furnace
It's critical to replace dirty air filters in a furnace or air conditioner regularly. Dirt-clogged filters cause the system to worker harder than it should because it takes extra work to move air through the plugged-up filter.
Officials suggest examining your furnace filter monthly 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. Homeowners who have dogs and cats will very likely have to replace their furnace air filter more often, because a quality air filter will trap pet hair circulating in a home.
Where Is the Air Filter in My Furnace?
In general, a furnace air filter is normally found in the return air duct or blower compartment before the return air goes back into the furnace. This is so air entering the system is filtered before it goes through the furnace components and is heated.
Depending on the furnace brand, the filter may be positioned on the right, left, bottom or in some cases, inside the furnace. It's generally housed within a slot, frame or cabinet for easy access and replacement. Always refer to your furnace's owner manual for important information about filter location of the furnace in your home.
Is a Furnace Filter the Same as an Air Filter?
The simple answer is, yes. In HVAC, a furnace filter and an air filter or AC filter are basically identical. 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 HVAC system.
They each remove dust, allergens, bacteria and other particulates from the air that is drawn into the furnace and air conditioning system, making sure the air flowing through your home is clean and safe.
What Is a MERV Rating and What MERV Rating Do I Need?
Once you track down your old furnace filter and figure out when it should be changed, it’s time to select a replacement. That means picking the level of filtration that you need. One method to do this is by picking an appropriate MERV rating for your needs.
MERV is an abbreviation for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values. The MERV rating indicates the effectiveness of air filters at trapping airborne molecules. The rating scale ranges from 1 to 20, with greater numbers indicating enhanced capabilities 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 certain health conditions might need to use a filter with a higher MERV rating.
Which Way to Put the Air Filter in a Furnace or Air Conditioner
Putting an air filter in a furnace or air conditioner the proper way is necessary for the efficient operation of the heating or cooling system. Air filters are supposed to face 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 toward the furnace or air conditioner, which is the direction of the airflow. If you're doubtful about the airflow direction, remember that air always moves from the return duct to the heat or cooling source. Therefore, be sure that the arrow points in the direction of the furnace or air conditioning unit.
Many people have difficulty remembering which direction to point their system's air filter. To help remember, consider snapping a quick photo with your mobile phone after the filter has been accurately 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 ask about this is during a routine furnace maintenance visit.
How to Change a Furnace Air Filter
Changing 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:
- 1. Turn off your furnace: Make a point to turn off your furnace before starting the process.
- Look for 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 the same way.
- Slide out the old filter: Be careful not to knock out any dust or debris.
- Document the date: Write down the date you changed filters on the new filter's frame. This will help your family keep track of when it's time for another replacement.
- Slide in new filter: Put in the new filter with the arrow pointing in the direction of the furnace, which is the direction of airflow and should be the same direction the arrow pointed on your last filter.
- Secure the filter: Make sure the new filter fits securely and close any latches or clips that lock it in place.
- Turn on your furnace: Once the replacement filter is safely installed, 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 reduce its lifespan. Changing your furnace or air conditioning filter is one of the easiest things you can do to keep your system running efficiently.