Choosing the ideal furnace filter and changing it when it gets dirty is as important to your HVAC system as changing the oil is to your car. Each plays a vital part in keeping its system operating safely, efficiently and for a long time.
A clogged furnace filter loses its effectiveness, permitting potentially harmful particles to flow through your home. It also limits airflow, which can damage your furnace and shorten its life span.
Making sure your furnace uses a clean filter that is suitable for your needs is not only about keeping your furnace operating efficiently. It’s also about delivering healthy indoor air quality for your home.
The quality of the air your family breathes is important to the heating professionals at Rapids Sheet Metal Works Inc. We've long worked with an eye on improving indoor air quality in Wisconsin Rapids. Here, we’ve answered common questions about HVAC filters, including that very tricky question of what direction do you point a filter in your furnace or air conditioner?
When to Replace the Air Filter in Your Furnace
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 force air through the plugged-up filter.
Officials advise checking your furnace filter every 30 days and replacing it if it’s dirty. You’ll know if it is dirty because it will filled with dirt or dust. Homeowners who have pets will probably need to replace their furnace air filter more often, because a good air filter will trap pet hair circulating in a home.
Locating Your Furnace's Air Filter
In general, a furnace air filter is usually installed in the return air duct or blower compartment before the return air goes back into the furnace. This is so air entering the system is filtered before it passes through the furnace components and is heated.
Depending on the type of furnace, the filter may be located on the right, left, bottom or in some cases, on the inside of the furnace. It's generally housed within a slot, frame or cabinet for simple access and replacement. Always refer to your furnace's owner manual for facts regarding filter location of your particular brand and model of 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 conditioning filter are basically the same. While people may call them different things based on the current season— summer or winter—they are all filters that clean the air in your residence.
They each eliminate dust, allergens, bacteria and other particulates from the air that is drawn into the furnace and air conditioning system, making sure the air flowing through your home is clean and safe.
What Is a MERV Rating and What MERV Rating Should I Have?
Once you locate your old furnace filter and determine when it should be substituted for a clean one, it’s time to pick a replacement. That means deciding on the level of filtration that you need. One way to do that is by selecting an appropriate MERV rating for your needs.
MERV is an abbreviation for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values. The MERV rating calculates the effectiveness of air filters at trapping airborne particles. The rating scale ranges from 1 to 20, with greater numbers indicating enhanced capabilities to filter tinier particles.
Experts say a filter with a MERV rating between 8 and 13 offers a good balance between having healthy indoor air quality without overly restricting airflow. However, people with specific health conditions could need to use a filter with a higher MERV rating.
Which Way to Put the Air Filter in a Furnace or Air Conditioner
Installing an air filter in a furnace or air conditioner properly is crucial 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 placed in the unit with this arrow pointing toward the furnace or air conditioner, which is the direction of the airflow. If you're unsure 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 toward the furnace or air conditioning unit.
Many people have difficulty remembering which direction to face their air filter. To help remember, consider snapping a quick photo with your mobile phone after the filter has been properly 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 handy time to inquire about this is during a scheduled furnace maintenance visit.
How to Change a Furnace Air Filter
Switching out the filter on your furnace or air conditioner is a quick and easy process. Here is a step-by-step rundown of how to retreive a dirty air filter and replace it with a new one:
- Turn off your furnace: Make a point to shut off your furnace before starting up 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 replacement filter to point the same way.
- Remove the old filter: Be careful not to knock out any dust or dirt.
- Record the date: Write down the date you changed filters on the new filter's frame. This will make it easier to keep track of when it's time for another replacement.
- Insert new filter: Put in the new filter with the arrow pointing toward the furnace, which is the direction of airflow and should be the same direction the arrow pointed on the dirty filter you just removed.
- Secure the filter: Make sure the new filter fits securely and close any latches or clips that hold it in the compartment.
- Turn on your furnace: Once the replacement filter is completely secured, you can turn your furnace back on.
Can a Dirty Air Filter Damage My Furnace?
The shortest answer is, yes, a dirty air filter can cause a furnace to quit working or shorten its lifespan. Changing your furnace or air conditioning filter is one of the easiest things you can do to keep your system operating correctly.