Everything You Need to Know About Air Filters

Air filters are important for your home and your HVAC unit. They are responsible for preparing the air that is about to be circulated throughout your home by removing dust and other particles that would otherwise fly freely through the air. If you aren’t sure about the value of a good air filter or are curious about your options, check out these answers to a few common questions people have.

What Does an Air Filter Keep Out?

Think about everything in your house and what particles it may be giving off. Every time you spray hairspray or perfume, cook dinner, clean the house, sneeze or cough, etc, particles float through the air. Most things are microscopic but still not things you’ll want to be breathing on a daily basis.

Air filters are designed to trap things such as:

  • Dust
  • Mites
  • Spores
  • Mold
  • Viruses
  • Ash
  • Pollen
  • Pet dander
  • Bug parts
  • Hair
  • Lint
  • Tobacco, wood,
  • Food
  • Pesticides
  • Paint or similar vapors
  • Fumes from cleaning products

Keep in mind that the basic air filters work only to protect the HVAC system, not the quality of the air you breathe, so shop around for a high-quality filter.

What Problems Do Dirty Filters Cause?

While air filters are designed to catch all of those nasty particles, they weren’t made to catch an unlimited amount. If your air filter is dirty, your HVAC unit will have to work harder to get air through the filter, therefore using up more energy and causing your unit to wear out faster. But not only that, the dirt coming through can also cause more damaging problems to the unit itself.

Common problems you may see include:

  • Buildup on the motor and fan blade
  • Dirt and allergen buildup on the sides of the ductwork
  • Clogged coils and higher risk of freezing due to lack of airflow
  • Lower efficiency and higher energy bill
  • More dirt in the air you breathe

You can prevent these problems easily by simply replacing your air filter regularly so that all harmful particles stay in the filter rather than in the air or in your unit.

What Options Are There for Filters?

Types of filters vary based on price, quality, size, function, and material. When shopping for the best air filter for your home, consider your needs. For instance, if you have a pet, you will probably want to find a filter specifically made to filter out pet hair and dander.

When deciding the level of filtration you need, consider the following:

  • How many people live in the house?
  • Does anyone smoke?
  • How many pets do you have?
  • Do you or your family suffer from seasonal allergies or asthma?
  • How often is your house cleaned?
  • Does your air quality feel low?

Depending on how many air pollutant factors exist in your home, you’ll need to find a filter with an appropriate strength. Air filters are rated on a scale 1-20 based on MERV, Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values. Lower quality filters rank at the lower end of that scale, while the higher quality filters will rank closer to 20. Keep in mind that the higher you go, the harder your unit may have to work as the thicker filters can reduce air pressure and raise your energy bill. Places such as hospitals and manufacturers are typically the only ones with filters ranked as high as 20. Check out this post about types of air filters for more detailed information about what each option offers.

How Often Should a Filter Be Changed?

If you consistently use your HVAC system, whether for heating or for cool air, your air filter should be changed monthly. The best way to remember to change it out is to put a date on the calendar or set a digital reminder on your phone. If you don’t want to change it that often, at least change it quarterly at the beginning of each season and check up on the filter occasionally between then to make sure an excess amount of dirt hasn’t collected on it.

Air filters are essential to keeping both your lungs and your HVAC unit working properly and for a long time. If you have any questions about what type of air filter will be the best option for your home and unit, feel free to give us a call at 615-594-3739. We’re always here to help you with any of your HVAC needs.