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How to Change Your HVAC Filter: A Complete Guide: 

Knowing when and how to change your HVAC filter is key to keeping clean air in your home. Here’s the 101 on HVAC filters.

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There are a lot of things a responsible homeowner has to think about, and one of those things is home maintenance. And while there are numerous home maintenance tasks that are important, there are some that if you put off or ignore, will lead to bigger issues.

One of those tasks is AC maintenance, or more precisely, knowing how to change your HVAC filter. HVAC stands for “heating, ventilation, and air conditioning” and it can be found in multiple systems, but the AC is the most common system when talking about HVAC. And HVAC comes with a filter that needs to be changed and replaced regularly.

Know what type of air filter you need

Before you learn how to replace HVAC filter units, you first need to know what type of filter your unit has. Most of these filters are made of biodegradable material, are disposable, and there are multiple filter types for air conditioners and furnace filters. Needless to say, it’s essential that you purchase the right one.

Luckily, there is a simple way to know what type of filter you need. Take a look at your owner’s manual and there you can find the type of air filter you need as well as what shape and size it needs to be.

If you don’t have your manual, you can simply look up the brand and model number of your HVAC unit and look for information on how to change HVAC filter online. Or if you’d prefer, you can go to your local hardware store and ask for help.

How often should you change or replace your HVAC filter?

how often to change your HVAC filter

There is no set rule that tells you when and how often you need to replace your HVAC filter. A general rule of thumb is that a standard 1-inch HVAC should be replaced once every 3 months. However, there are some exceptions.

Sometimes, you need to change your AC filter once a month and there are instances when you need to change it immediately. So let’s take a closer look.

When to change your filter after one month of use

The most common reason why someone would need to change their HVAC filter monthly is if they run their unit regularly. If you use it six months a year or more, this type of maintenance is necessary if you don’t want to see poor performance from the unit.

There are also other instances:

  • A lot of people live in your household or you have pets.
  • Someone in your household suffers from a respiratory condition or allergies.
  • You live in an area where dust and dirt can easily be tracked indoors like for example a farm or a ranch. 
  • Similarly, you have a large garden you work in regularly.
  • There is construction being done in or near your home.
  • You or someone in your household smokes indoors.

All of these situations can lead to materials that damage the filter of the HVAC unit before the 3-month life span.

When to change your filter immediately

Sometimes you can’t wait and need to take action right away, but this usually only happens in three scenarios:

  • You notice damage to your filter. Damage can happen to an HVAC filter while it’s being installed or even before it gets taken out of the packaging. A damaged HVAC filter might have holes, collapsed cells, or bent fins. All of this will prevent the filter from working properly.
  • There is mold growing on the filter. Mold or microbial growth on the filter isn’t only going to damage your entire unit, but it’s also bad for your family. Mold is a health hazard and can lead to issues such as serious allergic reactions and respiratory system irritations.
  • The filter is damp. Moisture intrusion can have a negative effect on your HVAC. High indoor humidity or system condensation can lead to mold spores growing on the filter, which will negatively affect the indoor air quality.

How to Change Your HVAC Filter

How often to change your hvac filter

Here are the different steps you need to take to replace HVAC filter parts.

Step 1: How to Change Your HVAC Filter – Remove the old filter

Before you can put in your new HVAC filter, you have to remove the current filter. First, make sure to turn off your unit. You will have to remove the access panels.

As you’re removing the old filter, take a look at the arrows which are painted on the edge of the filter as this will be important later.

Step 2: How to Change Your HVAC Filter – Clean your unit

There could be some residual dust in your unit that you might not see, but it’s still important to make sure everything is clean. After you’ve removed the old filter, take a rag and clean your unit from the inside because a clean unit is just as important as a clean air filter.

Step 3: How to Change Your HVAC Filter – Put in your new filter

After the old filter has been removed and your unit cleaned, it’s time to put in the new filter. As we already mentioned, it’s very important to be sure you have the right type and size of filter. Just to be sure, compare it to your old one to see if they match up.

To make sure you install the HVAC filter properly, carefully follow the directions in your owner’s manual. Also, remember the arrows we mentioned? Make sure the arrows on your replacement filter match the direction the arrows on your old filter were pointing.

These arrows usually point toward the blower; so for ceiling-mounted filters, they face upwards and for filters that are located next to a blower, they’re facing directly toward the blower.

Additionally, another thing that could help you out is that a lot of HVAC filters have different colors on the front and back. They serve to make sure you don’t install it backward.

Step 4: How to Change Your HVAC Filter – Finish the installation

Once you’ve installed your new HVAC filter, you need to check if it’s installed correctly and if there are any issues. First, check if there are any gaps around the filter frame. If there are, you either have a damaged filter or a wrong-sized filter.

If there are no gaps and the filter is sitting snuggly, it’s time to put back all of the gaskets, levers, or seals you had to take off before replacing the filter. Make sure they’re properly secured and finally, close your unit back up.

Step 5: How to Change Your HVAC Filter – Turn on your unit

Even though some people don’t think this step is important, it’s essential to turn on your unit as soon as you’ve finished your HVAC filter replacement. Watch the unit carefully to see if the filter is staying in place and if the unit’s working as it should be.

Step 6: How to Change Your HVAC Filter – Write the date of your filter replacement

Keeping track of how often you had to replace your HVAC filter is important because it can show you if your maintenance is more frequent than it should be. If it is, it might indicate something is wrong with your unit.

Consider Hiring a Professional

Knowing how to change air filter HVAC units is a good skill to have as it can help you maintain your unit yourself. However, there’s only so much a regular homeowner can do without needing professional help. And sometimes you will need help from professional HVAC repair services.

Professionals will change or replace your filter perfectly and make sure everything is running smoothly. However, this is far from the only reason why you should consider hiring a professional because they can do a lot more to ensure the longevity of your HVAC unit.

Some other services they provide include:

  • Cleaning the entire system with long-reaching hoses that can reach the ducts you couldn’t reach with a regular vacuum.
  • Blower motor cleaning that will remove all contaminants from your unit’s interior.
  • Register polishing that needs to be done as soon as dirt accumulates around a register.
  • Loosening and collecting contaminants to make sure all of the allergens are safely removed from your unit. This ensures they don’t linger around your home and mix with the clean air.

Of course, you should still do your own maintenance regularly but professional repair services need to be a crucial part of your home maintenance routine.

Don’t forget about regular cleaning

While you need to change your air conditioner filter on a regular basis, sometimes you can avoid a full replacement if you make sure regular cleaning is part of your unit maintenance. Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t need these replacements, but you will need to do them much less frequently.

When you clean your filters regularly, you will ensure they last for much longer and you don’t come across the issues that happen when you have clogged and dirty filters. These issues will block your airflow, influence indoor air quality, and decrease your system’s efficiency. Ductwork can also collect dust, so don’t forget to clean it as well.

A clean filter will also extend your unit’s life. When you have a dirty filter, it becomes hard for an AC unit to handle the airflow. But with a combination of regular cleaning and filter replacement, your AC unit will work for much longer.

Don’t forget that a clean unit is a safe unit. If you want to protect yourself and your family from contaminated air, clean your filters regularly.

The benefits of having an HVAC unit

All of this maintenance sounds difficult and some people may even wonder why they should even have an HVAC unit if it requires so much work. But all of the hassle that comes with having to maintain this unit pales in comparison with all of the benefits that you can enjoy if you decide to have one in your home.

Your energy bill will decrease  

If you’re tired of having a high energy bill or you simply want to save some money, you can do that easily if you buy an HVAC unit. It allows you to regulate the temperature in your house, which means you don’t have to constantly run your heater or air conditioner.

It also improves how your overall heating and cooling systems work, which brings your energy costs down. But you can only take advantage of this benefit if your unit is working properly, so don’t forget about regular maintenance.

You can ensure a consistent temperature in your home

One of the biggest reasons why people choose to buy an HVAC unit in the first place is so they can keep a consistent temperature in their home. If you’re someone who is annoyed by random hot and cold spots in your home, you can be sure that those will become a thing of the past.

This is an especially useful feature of these systems during the winter and summer months when the temperatures become too extreme and often fluctuate. All you will have to do is set the temperature that’s right for you and be as cool or as hot as you want while also staying comfortable.

It will improve your home’s air quality

Good air quality is important for everyone, but especially for those who suffer from respiratory conditions such as asthma or allergies. If you or someone else in your household has these issues, an HVAC system will be your new best friend.

It will remove all of the allergens from your home’s air as well as dust, pollen, and anything else that might make it difficult to breathe. It can also reduce the overall level of humidity, which is extremely important for maintaining healthy air quality and making your home more comfortable for everyone.

It’s a long-term investment that pays off greatly

You will see immediate benefits as soon as you get your HVAC unit running. However, as time goes by, you’ll also see some long-term benefits that can’t be overlooked.

If you take care of your unit properly and maintain it regularly, you will see a positive difference in your savings in the long run. These modern HVAC systems are very energy-efficient which, as we already mentioned, helps you save money. 

But an added bonus is that they increase the value of homes in which they’re installed. This makes them a great investment for the future if you decide to sell your home one day.

The DOs and DON’Ts of proper HVAC unit maintenance  

If you know how to maintain your HVAC unit properly, you’ll ensure that the system runs smoothly for years and keeps your energy bill low, and you’ll avoid any costly repairs. After all, even though changing and replacing the filter is a big part of HVAC maintenance, it’s still just one part of it.

DO have it inspected regularly

It doesn’t matter if your unit is brand new; if it works properly and if you maintain it regularly, you still need to have it inspected by a qualified technician. Ideally, you should do this as frequently as you can, but aim to do it at least once a year.

A qualified technician will be able to find any issues or problems with your unit before it’s too late and you can get it repaired without breaking the bank.

Don’t wait for something to go terribly wrong before you call for repairs. While you should call a professional when you need repairs immediately, don’t wait for a disaster to call for help.

DON’T run your system at all times

Even though your unit was made to keep you cool or hot, you still shouldn’t run it at all times. Give it a break from time to time and let it rest for at least a few hours every day. Also, make sure to turn it off every time you leave the house, especially if it’s for an extended period of time.

HVAC systems generally don’t behave any differently until something is seriously wrong with them, so it can be easy to think that it’s okay to overwork them and keep them running constantly. But if you don’t give your HVAC unit those occasional breaks, it will wear out and break down much sooner.

DO change your filters

Even though we already talked about this extensively, it’s still important to repeat it just to make sure the message comes across. Regularly changing and replacing your filters is a must if you expect your unit to work for years on end.

As we already explained, filters are one of the most important parts of any HVAC unit. If you change them regularly, you’ll extend the life expectancy of your unit significantly. As long as you follow all of the steps you learned about here, you shouldn’t have any issues with filter replacement.

DON’T put too much faith in smart devices

Smart thermostats come with a plethora of benefits, one of them being non-stop monitoring capabilities. Another feature people love is remote access which is used for maintenance purposes, but this feature isn’t as good as it seems.

If you just let smart devices do maintenance on your HVAC filter without doing anything manually, you will do yourself a disservice. You can miss some important things (such as filter replacement) and this will ultimately cause your unit to break down.

Final thoughts on how to change your HVAC filter properly

For a lot of people, HVAC filter replacement is the last thing on their minds until they run into an issue with their unit that could have been avoided with proper maintenance. If you are a responsible HVAC unit owner, you will take it upon yourself to learn how to change the filter.

We hope our explanation of how to change HVAC air filter units helped you understand that this important task isn’t as hard as it seems. Now that you know how and when to do it and also when it’s time to call in some professional help, you can enjoy your unit without worrying it’s going to run into issues.