Choosing the correct furnace filter and changing it when it becomes dirty is as important to your HVAC system as changing the oil is to your car. Each plays a critical role in keeping its system operating safely, efficiently and for a long time.
A clogged furnace filter loses its effectiveness, enabling potentially harmful particles to move through your home. It also restricts airflow, which can damage your furnace and shorten its life span.
Making certain your furnace uses a clean filter that is ideal for your needs is not just about keeping your furnace running efficiently. It’s also about providing good indoor air quality for your residence.
Your health is important to the heating specialists at Cytech Heating & Cooling L.C.. We've long focused on bettering indoor air quality in Rio Grande Valley. Here, we’ve answered common questions about HVAC filters, including that particularly tricky question of what direction do you point a filter in your furnace or air conditioner?
How Often to Replace the Air Filter in a Furnace
Experts stress it's important to replace dirty air filters in a furnace or air conditioner periodically. Dirty filters cause the system to worker harder than it should because it takes extra work to force air through the plugged-up filter.
Officials suggest checking your furnace filter every month and replacing it if it’s dirty. You’ll know if your filter needs changing because it will be gray or black from dirt or dust. People who have dogs and cats will very likely need to replace their furnace air filter more often, because an effective air filter will trap pet hair circulating in a home.
Where Is the Air Filter in My Furnace?
In general, a furnace air filter is normally located in the return air duct or blower compartment before the return air goes back into 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 type of furnace, the filter may be found on the right, left, bottom or in some cases, inside the furnace. It's usually housed within a slot, frame or cabinet for easy access and replacement. Always refer to your furnace's owner manual for facts concerning filter location of your particular brand and model of furnace.
Is a Furnace Filter the Same as an Air Filter?
The easy answer is, yes. In HVAC, a furnace filter and an air filter or air conditioner filter are effectively the same thing. While they might be called different things based on the current season— hot or cold—they are all filters that clean the air in your HVAC system.
They each get rid of dust, allergens, bacteria and other contaminants from the air that is drawn into the furnace and air conditioning system, making certain the air distributed throughout your home is clean and safe.
What Is a MERV Rating and What MERV Rating Do I Need?
Once you locate your old furnace filter and decide when it should be replaced, it’s time to select a replacement. That means picking the level of filtration that you need. One method to do this is by choosing an appropriate MERV rating for your needs.
MERV is an abbreviation for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values. The MERV rating measures the effectiveness of air filters at trapping airborne contaminants. The rating scale ranges from 1 to 20, with greater numbers indicating the power to filter tinier particles.
Experts say a filter with a MERV rating between 8 and 13 offers an ideal balance between having good indoor air quality without needlessly restricting airflow. However, people with certain health conditions may need to purchase a filters 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 correctly is necessary for the efficient operation of the heating or cooling system. Air filters are supposed to face a specific 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 at the furnace or air conditioner, which is the direction of the airflow. If you're unsure about the airflow direction, remember that air always moves from the return duct and then to the heat or cooling source. Therefore, make sure the arrow points at the furnace or air conditioner.
Many people are confused by which direction to install an air filter. To help remember, consider taking a quick picture 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 point. A great time to inquire about this is during a scheduled furnace maintenance call.
How to Change a Furnace Air Filter
Switching out the filter on your furnace or air conditioning system is a quick and easy process. Here is a step-by-step rundown of how to take out a dirty air filter and replace it with a new one:
- 1. Turn off your furnace: Make sure to shut off your furnace before starting the process.
- Look for the furnace filter: Typically, the filter is positioned within the furnace or in the air return vent. Make note of which direction the arrow points on the filter, because you’ll want the arrow on the replacement filter to point the same way.
- Slide out the old filter: Be careful not to knock out any dust or particles.
- Note 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.
- Slide in 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 your last filter.
- Secure the filter: Make sure the new filter fits nicely and close any latches or clips that hold it in the compartment.
- Turn on your furnace: Once the replacement filter is completely installed, you can turn your furnace back on.
Will a Dirty Air Filter Cause a Furnace Not to Work?
The simple answer is, yes, a dirty air filter can cause a furnace to stop working or shorten its lifespan. Changing your furnace or AC filter is one of the simplest things you can do to keep your system operating correctly.