Picking out the ideal furnace filter and changing it when it is dirty is as important to your HVAC system as changing the oil is to your car. Each plays a critical part in keeping its system running safely, efficiently and for a long time.
An overused furnace filter loses its effectiveness, allowing potentially harmful particles to circulate through your home. It also slows airflow, which can damage your furnace and decrease 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 home.
Your health is important to the heating professionals at Gopher Heating and Air Conditioning. We've long worked with an eye on improving indoor air quality in Savage. 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?
When Should I Replace My Furnace Air Filter?
It is vital to replace dirty air filters in a furnace or air conditioner routinely. Soiled filters cause the system to worker harder than it should because it takes extra work to move air through the plugged-up filter.
Officials advise inspecting your furnace filter every 30 days and replacing it if it’s dirty. You’ll know if your filter needs changing because it will coated with dirt or dust. Those who have pets that shed will probably have to replace their furnace air filter more often, because a quality air filter will trap pet hair circulating in a home.
Locating Your Furnace's Air Filter
In general, a furnace air filter is usually found in the return air duct or blower compartment before the return air gets to the furnace. This is so air flowing into 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 generally housed inside of a slot, frame or cabinet for easy access and replacement. Always refer to your furnace's owner manual for details concerning filter location of your furnace.
Are Air Filters and Furnace Filters the Same Thing?
The easy 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— warm or chilly months—they are all filters that clean the air in your home.
They each eliminate dust, allergens, bacteria and other airborne debris from the air that is drawn into the furnace and air conditioning system, making certain the air circulating throughout your home is clean and safe.
What Is the MERV Rating System and What MERV Rating Do I Need?
Once you find your old furnace filter and figure out when it should be replaced, it’s time to pick a replacement. That means deciding on the level of filtration that you need. One approach to this is by selecting an appropriate MERV rating for your needs.
MERV is short for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values. The MERV rating calculates the effectiveness of air filters at trapping airborne molecules. The rating scale ranges from 1 to 20, with greater numbers indicating a greater ability to filter small particles.
Experts say a filter with a MERV rating between 8 and 13 offers an ideal balance between having adequate indoor air quality without overly restricting airflow. However, people with some health conditions could need to use a filter with a higher MERV rating.
Where to Insert the Air Filter in a Furnace or Air Conditioning System
Putting an air filter in a furnace or air conditioner the proper way is necessary for the efficient operation of the system. Air filters are supposed to face a certain direction, indicated by an arrow written on the side of the filter frame. The filter should be installed with this arrow pointing in the direction of the furnace or air conditioner, which is the direction of the airflow. If you're doubtful about the airflow direction, try to remember that air always moves from the return duct towards the heat or cooling source. Therefore, be sure that the arrow points at the furnace or air conditioner.
Many people are confused by which direction to point an air filter. To help remember, consider taking a quick 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 be installed. A great time to inquire about this is during a routine furnace maintenance visit.
Changing Your Furnace's Air Filter
Switching out the filter on your furnace or AC is a quick and easy process. Here is a step-by-step list of how to remove a dirty air filter and replace it with a new one:
- Turn off your furnace: Be sure to turn off your furnace before starting the process.
- Look for the furnace filter: Typically, the filter is located within 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 the same way.
- Slide out the old filter: Be diligent not to knock out any dust or dirt.
- Note the date: Write down the date you replaced the filter on the new filter's frame. This will help you keep track of when it's time for the next change.
- Slide in new filter: Put in the new filter with the arrow pointing at 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 hold it in the compartment.
- Turn on your furnace: Once the new filter is safely in place, you can turn your furnace back on.
Will a Dirty Air Filter Damage My Furnace?
The short answer is, yes, a dirty air filter can cause a furnace to cease working or shorten its lifespan. Changing your furnace or air conditioning filter is one of the best things you can do to keep your system operating correctly.