Choosing the proper furnace filter and changing it when it becomes dirty is as important to your HVAC system as changing the oil is to your car. Each plays a critical role in keeping its system operating safely, efficiently and for a long time.
A clogged furnace filter loses its effectiveness, permitting potentially harmful particles to circulate 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 ideal for your needs is not just about keeping your furnace working efficiently. It’s also about creating healthy indoor air quality for your residence.
Your health is important to the heating and cooling pros at Childress Heating & AC. We've long worked with an eye on bettering indoor air quality in Fredericksburg. Here, we’ve answered frequent questions about HVAC filters, including that particularly 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 is important to replace dirty air filters in a furnace or air conditioner periodically. Dirty filters cause the system to worker harder than it should because it takes extra work to force air through the plugged-up filter.
Officials advise inspecting 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. Those who have pets will probably want to replace their furnace air filter more often, because a good 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 usually installed 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 goes through the furnace components and is heated.
Depending on the furnace brand, the filter may be found on the right, left, bottom or in some cases, within the furnace. It's typically housed within a slot, frame or cabinet for easy access and replacement. Always refer to your furnace's owner manual for information about filter location of your particular brand and model of furnace.
Is a Furnace Filter the Same as an Air Filter?
The easy answer is, yes. In HVAC, a furnace filter and an air filter or air conditioning filter are effectively identical. While people might refer to them differently based on the current season— hot or cold—they are all filters that clean the air in your HVAC system.
They each get rid of 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 pick a replacement. That means determining the level of filtration that you need. One way to do that 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 contaminants. The rating scale ranges from 1 to 20, with greater numbers indicating the power to filter small particles.
Experts say a filter with a MERV rating between 8 and 13 offers an appropriate balance between having healthy indoor air quality without unnecessarily restricting airflow. However, people with some health conditions may need to use a filter 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 important for the efficient operation of the system. Air filters are supposed to face a specific direction, indicated by an arrow written on the side of the filter frame. The filter should be put in with this arrow pointing at 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 and then to the heat or cooling source. Therefore, be sure that the arrow points at the furnace or air conditioning unit.
Many people are confused by which direction to point an air filter. To help remember, consider taking a picture with your cellular phone after the filter has been correctly 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 perfect time to ask about this is during a scheduled furnace maintenance call.
How to Change a Furnace Air Filter
Changing the filter on your furnace or air conditioner is a quick and easy process. Here is a step-by-step rundown of how to remove a dirty air filter and exchange it for a new one:
- 1. Turn off your furnace: Make a point to switch off your furnace before starting up the process.
- Look for the furnace filter: Typically, the filter is located in the furnace or in the air return vent. Make a mental note or write down which direction the arrow points on the filter, because you’ll want the arrow on the new filter to point similarly.
- Remove the old filter: Be diligent not to knock out any dust or dirt.
- Note the date: Write down the date of replacement on the new filter's frame. This will help your family keep track of when it's time for another replacement.
- Insert 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 nicely and close any latches or clips that secure it in place.
- Turn on your furnace: Once the new filter is safely secured, 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 cease 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.