HVAC systems in homes are essential for maintaining a comfortable temperature and air quality. To keep indoor air clean the HVAC filters require proper maintenance. Professional maintenance helps to keep the system efficient and performing efficiently. Read on to look into HVAC filter types, maintenance, and how they impact your home environment.
Why Prioritize HVAC Filtration?
Filters protect HVAC systems from the build up of debris. The dirt and dust that can build up will prevent airflow and possibly lead to a system failure. Filters also improve air quality. Higher rated home air filters trap tiny irritating or unhealthy particles like pollen, pet dander, smoke and bacteria that can otherwise trigger allergies or respiratory issues when breathed in.
Major Categories of HVAC Filters
There are several main types of HVAC filters to choose from, each with unique pros, cons and differences in cost, particle capture abilities, durability and impact on energy efficiency:
Pleated – The folds in these filters equal more surface area for catching debris compared to flat filters. They come in varying efficiency ratings and are very effective at controlling allergens and pollutants. However, high ratings can restrict airflow.
Fiberglass – Inexpensive but less effective at trapping tiny particles like smoke or bacteria. Mainly stops large debris from entering the HVAC components. Frequent replacement is needed.
HEPA – Extremely effective down to 0.3 micron particles but high airflow resistance may overload underpowered HVAC systems. Consult professionals before installing.
Washable – A reusable and eco-friendly option, but performance degrades over time. Improper drying promotes mold growth.
Filter Efficiency and Rating Systems
Several rating systems gauge filters’ contaminant capturing abilities. MERV ratings incorporate particle size, rating both small and large debris. MPR focuses specifically on tiny 0.3 to 1 micron particles. As a Home Depot exclusive, FPR rates larger particle filtration. Basically, higher numbers equal better pollutant control. However, increased resistance can make HVAC systems work extra hard, wasting energy if airflow is too restricted. Professional consultation for system pairing is ideal.
How to Select the Ideal Filter
Choosing the optimal filter depends first on your needs and priorities, whether tackling smoke, dander, mold, bacteria or other irritants. For severe allergies, MERV 11+ pleated or HEPA filters provide superior contamination control. Also consider your HVAC system’s specifications and age, as high efficiency filters can strain weaker systems. Newer units often accommodate upgraded filters better. Determine needed dimensions to match your existing filter size or duct openings. An incorrectly sized, loose filter causes performance issues.
When to Replace or Wash Filters
For disposable types, replacement every 30-90 days is fairly standard, adjusted for heavy usage, pets or dust. Washable filters should adhere to a similar maintenance schedule, more often being better to control allergens. Mark your calendar seasonally or set reminders to stay on top of refresh cycles. Visually inspect monthly and replace sooner if buildup is visible around the edges or surface.
Correct Filter Installation
Refer to manufacturer instructions for your HVAC system to guarantee accurate orientation and snug insertion. Arrow markings on some filters indicate airflow direction for proper alignment. Failure to insert correctly can severely hinder system functionality. Contaminants then flow freely into living spaces rather than getting trapped. Ensure access doors seal tightly post-installation.
How Filters Enhance Indoor Air Quality
High filtration ability directly correlates to cleaner indoor air by trapping fine debris known to aggravate respiratory conditions or trigger allergic reactions if inhaled. Those with environmental sensitivities such as asthma especially benefit from vigilant filter upkeep to minimize irritant circulation. Consider adding a supplemental room or portable air cleaners too for optimal air purity.
Energy Efficiency Benefits
Dirty, incorrectly sized or poorly seated filters make HVAC systems work exponentially harder to push and pull air through restricted ducts, burning extra electricity. Maintaining clean, smoothly operating filters maximizes operational efficiency and reduces bills.
Extending HVAC System Longevity
Clean HVAC filters also minimize gunky buildup and debris on blower motors, cooling coils and other integral components. This significantly slows internal corrosion and breakdown over decades of use, prolonging overall system lifespan compared to neglected units requiring frequent repairs. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Tips For Purchasing Replacement Filters
When buying new HVAC filters, carefully match dimensions to current filters or duct space, verify MERV or other ratings meet needs, compare prices and brands using online search tools, and set delivery reminders if available to maintain a healthy stockpile. Avoid makeshift DIY filters lacking verified effectiveness ratings or dimensions.
Evaluating Your Home’s Filtration Needs
Assessing Environmental Factors
Carefully evaluate environmental considerations that impact your home’s ideal filtration solution. Factors like carpeted floors, pets, allergies and proximity to highways or construction zones increase debris, fumes and contaminant circulation through HVAC systems. High traffic homes also require extra diligence.
Determining HVAC Adequacy
Inspect your HVAC system itself to ensure components facilitate upgraded filtering. Older, weaker blowers may strain if restricted. Newer systems tend to accommodate high-efficiency filters more smoothly. Document unit age, filter types used previously, ductwork condition and note any past component failures impacting airflow.
Consult professionals if uncertain if your HVAC can handle filters above MERV 12 without performance issues.
When to Upgrade Filters
Upgrade filtration if you notice lingering dust, stuffiness, particulates, visibly circulating beams of light, new allergy issues, or respiratory irritation potentially tied to indoor air pollution. Install supplemental room or whole home air cleaners if HVAC filtration proves inadequate alone.
Troubleshooting Common HVAC Filter Problems
Fixing Restricted Airflow Issues
If upgrading to a higher efficiency filter strains your HVAC system with excessive resistance and noise, try sizing up to a thicker filter to allow more airflow spread over a larger surface area. Or step back down to the previous MERV rating. Pleated options often solve restrictive airflow better than densely packed HEPA filters. Always meet system specifications.
Preventing Leakage Around Filters
Airflow leaks often occur if filters fail to fit snugly. Gaps let debris bypass filtration, circulating dust and allergens freely. Measure carefully before purchasing replacements.Temporary patching like craft foam or mesh screen may help if filters are slightly undersized while awaiting properly fitting replacements.
Eliminating Mold & Odor Buildup
Improperly dried washable filters readily incubate mold. Run portable air cleaners after washing and before reinstalling filters to purge lingering moisture and associated odors from ductwork. Discard washable filters at the first sign of mold growth or deterioration, which compromises effectiveness.
Reassessing Filtration Improvement Approaches
Trying Other High-Density Filter Materials
If washable or standard filters fail to provide desired contaminant control for health reasons, try more heavy-duty pleated or HEPA alternatives rated at MERV 17+ capable of trapping over 90% of particles under 1 micron. Measure duct openings first and consult HVAC specialists.
Installing Supplemental Filtration Solutions
Portable room air cleaners or whole-home in-duct systems provide supplemental filtration when HVAC capabilities max out. Target the rooms needing maximum air purification. Change secondary filter media diligently.
When to Call A Professional
If upgraded filters cause HVAC performance issues you fail to solve independently, do not delay contacting an HVAC technician to inspect for underlying system weaknesses or compatibility solutions. Improper DIY repairs risk equipment damage or mold issues. Let experts handle complex filtration hurdles.
Investing in the properly matched, quality HVAC air filter optimizes efficiency, durability, energy costs, and indoor air purity critical for health and comfort. Prioritize regular inspection and maintenance, aiming for filter replacement or cleaning every 60-90 days, more often being preferable. Let advanced HVAC filtration pave the way for clean, allergen and toxin-free air year round!