In the same way that you need to change the oil in your car every 6,000 – 10,000 km to keep it running smoothly, your furnace filters need to be swapped out regularly too. Clogged or old filters are inefficient, can damage your furnace, and even drive up your energy bill as your furnace has to work overtime to do what it needs to.
Luckily, all of this is preventable with a regular filter replacement. Best of all, it’s easy to do yourself. Here are all the tips and tricks you need to know when replacing your furnace filter.
1. Follow the replacement schedule
There are two types of filters – basic filters, and premium. Basic filters need to be changed monthly, while the premium can last up to 3 months (depending on your home). You can tell which filter you already have in place by pulling your existing one out to take a look. The premium filters are typically pleated and opaque, the basic are flat and more translucent. No matter which option you go with, we suggest checking your filter each month just to be sure it’s in good condition. As a general rule of thumb, if the filter is looking grey and dirty it’s time for a new one.
2. Right-size filters
When it is time to swap out your filters, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting the right size filter for your furnace. To find the size of the filter you need just pull out your existing filter and check along the sides where the dimensions should be listed.
Don’t forget to double-check that you bought the right one before opening the package so you can return it if you need.
3. Choose the right filter
Depending on your lifestyle (pets, dusty hobbies like woodworking, etc.) and your preference, there are different types of filters with varying levels of ability to catch these smaller particles from the air. This can be identified by what’s called a microparticle rating. The higher the rating number, the smaller of particles it can remove from the air. For example, higher range filters (known as allergy-rated filters) can pick up pet dander, pollen, and even smoke and are rated around 1000 microparticles. Your most basic filter, rated at roughly 300 microparticles, will pick up mostly dust and lint. Each filter is priced accordingly, so expect to pay more for the higher number of microparticle ratings.
For large-format filters (typically 4-6” thick) there’s an entirely different rating system, the most common of which being the MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating. Filters with a rating between 5 – 8 MERV are equivalent to the filtration a basic standard filter offers and will capture particles 3.0 – 10.0 um (short for tiny particles known as micron’s). A 9-12 MERV rated filter will catch particles as small as 1.0 – 3.0 um and remove 90-98% of particles in the air. 13 – 16 MERV rated filters will capture particles as small 0.3 – 1 um and remove 95- 99% of particles from the air. This level of filtration is equal to what is used in surgical operating rooms. MERV 17 Level filtration is equal to filtration delivered by a HEPA Filtration System. As with standard filters, as MERV rated filters increase infiltration ability, they also increase in price.
4. Follow the arrow
Your furnace isn’t something you deal with too often, so some of the things that might be instinctual to a furnace repair person won’t come naturally to you. When you install your new filter, make sure the airflow arrow (printed on the top or side of the filter) is pointed towards the furnace. This arrow is the direction of air flow.
5. Don’t force it
As you install your new filter, it should slide in gently and without the need for force. If it feels at all like it’s sticking or difficult to get in, try removing it altogether and doing it again. If you force the filter, it might bend or break.
6. Set a reminder
Owning a home can involve a regular amount of upkeep, so we recommend setting helpful maintenance reminders for yourself. One of the ways to do this is by writing the date the filter was installed on the side of the furnace filter (permanent markers work well for this). Want to automate it? Set a calendar reminder in your phone for a monthly check-in.
You want to keep dust from entering your furnace – and your home. Filter covers are designed to fit over the filter slot to keep everything contained. Most newer furnaces come with filter plate covers to protect you and your furnace. Be sure to put your filter cover back in place once you’ve swapped out your filter. Keep in mind that filter covers are required by most local building codes as they prevent the furnace from drawing air in the furnace room and circulating this air through the house.
Did you know? Your furnace filter also filters out dust and debris when you are running your air conditioner. Both systems use the same ducting to distribute air throughout your home but air conditioners are even more sensitive to airflow than furnaces. They can freeze up and stop working without adequate airflow. That’s why it’s important to check your furnace filter regularly during the heating AND cooling season.
A little care can go a long way
We hope that after reading this article you’re feeling more confident than ever to update your furnace filter. And if this sounds like a lot of work, we’re here to help. Give us a call to schedule your regular furnace upkeep and maintenance.