A Comprehensive Guide to Furnace Filters

When it comes to your HVAC system, the filter is of the utmost importance. However, most homeowners know little to nothing about this important component of their furnace. Therefore, we have put together this guide on furnace filters so you can be better informed about the different types, how they function, and how to determine the best option for your system.

What is the Purpose of a Furnace Filter?

The furnace filter plays an important role in ensuring the efficiency of your HVAC system and the air quality of your home. As the air travels through your ducts and back into your unit, it passes through your furnace filter. Any pollutants like pet hair, dirt, dust, and mold spores get caught in the filter, ensuring that the air that is sent back into your home is clean. Clean air is not only healthier for you and your family, it also helps your system work effectively. The more clogged an air filter is, the harder your HVAC system has to work, and this can skyrocket your energy bills and even cause your system to eventually break down. Protect your HVAC system (and your health and wallet) by keeping your furnace filter clean.

Types of Furnace Filters

There are two types of furnace filters: disposable or washable. When you need to replace a disposable furnace filter, you simply pull it out and replace it with a new, clean filter. In contrast, you can reuse washable filters; all you have to do is remove them, wash them, allow them to dry thoroughly, and reinsert them. Filters need to be either replaced or washed on a regular basis to maintain good air quality in your home.

Some common kinds of disposable filters include:

  • Fiberglass filters
  • Synthetic filters
  • Polyester filters
  • Electrostatic filters
  • Pleated media filters
  • HEPA (high efficiency particulate arrestance) filters

What is MERV?

You may have noticed the term “MERV” used in conjunction with your furnace filter. MERV is an acronym for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This is a rating system used to describe the efficiency of a furnace filter. The MERV rating scale is from 1 to 16, and the higher the rating, the more efficient the filter is. Filters that are MERV 8 through 12 are considered best for residential homes. Though it may seem like the higher, the better, a MERV rating any higher than that can restrict your HVAC system’s airflow, which can raise your energy bills, decrease your comfort, and even cause the system to break down. To determine which is the best for your system, it’s best to leave it to the professionals. Contact North Central Heating and Air and we can help you determine what is best for your system.

Service Life of Filters

How long your furnace filter lasts depends on several different factors. First, the MERV efficiency rating will have an impact; in general, higher rated filters last longer than their less efficient counterparts.

Certain household factors will also come into play in determining the life of your furnace filter. Do you have pets? Any smokers in the house? Any airborne contaminants will create the need to replace the filter more often. In addition, if anyone in your household suffers from allergies or has asthma, it’s wise to replace or clean filters more often, as their symptoms will be much worse in a home with the poor air quality that comes from dirty filters.

How you use your HVAC system also impacts how often you will need to replace filters. When things get particularly hot or particularly cold here in Florida, such as during the blazing heat or July or the chillier winter months, your filter has to work a lot harder than it does during milder temperatures. This means that you will have to clean it more frequently in the summer and winter than you do in the spring or fall in order to maintain high indoor air quality.

So How Often Should I Change My Furnace Filter?

These factors will impact how often you need to change your filter, but as a general rule, you will want to follow this guideline:

  • 1 Inch Furnace Filter: Every 1 to 3 Months
  • 2 Inch Furnace Filter: Every 1 to 3 Months
  • 3 Inch Furnace Filter: Every 6 to 9 Months
  • 4 Inch Furnace Filter: Every 6 to 9 Months
  • 5 Inch Furnace Filter: Every 9 to 12 Months
  • 6 Inch Furnace Filter: Every 9 to 12 Months

There are also some visual indications that your filter needs to be changed. For example, when you remove your filter, it may appear gray, and you may actually be able to see debris or dirt. Additionally, if you start to notice more dust in your home, it’s possible that the air is not being filtered properly due to a dirty air filter. Your furnace may also be running longer than what is typical. You can learn more about signs of a dirty air filter in this blog post.

Finding the Right Filter Size

You need to use the right filter size to fit your specific HVAC system. If you don’t have a filter with the right dimensions, your system simply cannot function correctly. When choosing an air filter, you will notice the dimensions printed on the frame. When you are buying a filter, make sure these dimensions are in line with your system, as well as the model.

If you are having trouble locating a filter that meets your system’s requirements, we can help. Contact North Central Florida Heating and Air for assistance with any of your HVAC needs, whether it’s AC installation or heating repair. Get a free estimate today!

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