Picking out 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 crucial part in keeping its system operating safely, efficiently and for a long time.
An overused 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 sure your furnace uses a clean filter that is appropriate for your needs is not only about keeping your furnace running efficiently. It’s also about creating healthy indoor air quality for your residence.
The quality of the air your family breathes is important to the HVAC specialists at Fairfield Heating & Cooling. We've long focused on improving indoor air quality in Lancaster. 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 vital to replace dirty air filters in a furnace or air conditioner regularly. Dirty filters cause the system to worker harder than it should because it takes extra work to move air through the plugged-up filter.
Officials recommend inspecting your furnace filter every month and replacing it if it’s dirty. You’ll know if it is dirty because it will filled with dirt or dust. People who have dogs and cats will likely want to replace their furnace air filter more often, because an effective 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 commonly located in the return air duct or blower compartment before the return air gets to the furnace. This makes sure air entering the system is filtered before it moves through the furnace components and is heated.
Depending on the furnace model, the filter may be positioned on the right, left, bottom or in some cases, within the furnace. It's usually housed in a slot, frame or cabinet for convenient access and replacement. Always refer to your furnace's owner manual for important information concerning filter location of your furnace.
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 air conditioner filter are essentially 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 remove dust, allergens, bacteria and other airborne debris from the air that is drawn into the furnace and air conditioning system, making sure the air distributed throughout 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 determine when it should be substituted for a clean one, it’s time to choose a replacement. That means picking the level of filtration that you need. One approach to this is by picking 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 molecules. The rating scale ranges from 1 to 20, with bigger numbers indicating the power to filter smaller particles.
Experts say a filter with a MERV rating between 8 and 13 offers an appropriate balance between having good indoor air quality without overly restricting airflow. However, people with specific health conditions could need to purchase a filters with a higher MERV rating.
Which Way to Put the Air Filter in a Furnace or Air Conditioner
Positioning an air filter in a furnace or air conditioner properly is crucial for the efficient operation of the system. Air filters have a specific direction, indicated by an arrow located on the side of the filter frame. The filter should be installed with this arrow pointing toward the furnace or air conditioning unit, which is the direction of the airflow. If you're doubtful about the airflow direction, it may be helpful to 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 conditioner.
Many people are confused by which direction to install their air filter. To help remember, consider snapping a quick photo with your cell 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 point. A great time to do this is during a routine furnace maintenance call.
How to Change a Furnace Air Filter
Changing the filter on your furnace or air conditioning system is a quick and easy process. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how to retreive a dirty air filter and replace it with a new one:
- 1. Turn off your furnace: Make a point to switch off your furnace before starting the process.
- Find the furnace filter: Typically, the filter is located inside the furnace or in the air return vent. Take note of which direction the arrow points on the filter, because you’ll want the arrow on the new filter to point the same way.
- Remove the old filter: Be mindful not to knock out any dust or dirt.
- Record the date: Write down the date of replacement on the new filter's frame. This will help you keep track of when it's time for the next change.
- Put 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 the old filter you are replacing.
- Secure the filter: Make sure the new filter fits correctly and close any latches or clips that lock it in the unit.
- Turn on your furnace: Once the replacement filter is completely installed, you can turn your furnace back on.
Will a Dirty Air Filter Cause a Furnace Not to Work?
The simple answer is, yes, a dirty air filter can cause a furnace to stop working or shorten its lifespan. Changing your furnace or air conditioner filter is one of the best things you can do to keep your system running effectively.