Don’t Neglect the Air Filter in Your HVAC System

You just might be surprised to learn how much a simple air filter in a residential heating and cooling system can improve indoor air quality and heating and cooling efficiency and performance. If you get the right air filter for your needs and make sure it’s replaced on a regular basis, an air filter in the $10-$15 price range can provide extensive benefits in your household.

It doesn’t matter what sort of forced-air heating and cooling system your homes uses – whether a furnace, heat pump, AC or a combination system – the air filter plays an essential role.

Here’s How an HVAC Air Filter Does Its Job

The filter, after being installed near where your home’s ductwork is connected to the indoor cooling or heating equipment, performs its job whenever the system kicks on to provide warm or cool air. As a powerful fan pulls air from the return ductwork into the AC, heat pump or furnace, the air passes through the filter. The filtration media in the filter remove various types of debris and dust – which may include unwanted contaminants and allergens such as mold spores, pollen and pet dander. (That is if the filter is rated to remove smaller particulates and isn’t already clogged with material.)

The result is improved indoor air quality and a cleaner, more efficient cooling or heating system. Without a properly maintained air filter, dust and dirt particles will end up on the sensitive machinery in your HVAC equipment, creating friction and inefficient operation. Dust can hurt the performance of a furnace or AC blower, for example, or erode the essential heat-exchange capability of the evaporator coil in an AC or heat pump. When these parts are clean, your system will operate at the efficiency level it was designed for.

With regard to indoor air quality, you obviously will enjoy cleaner air in your home when an effective air filter has sifted out contaminants before your forced-air cooling or heating system circulates the air through your home. Depending on individual circumstances in your household, and the type and quality of the air filter you’re using, you may want to consider supplementing the air filter with a dedicated air purifier or a system that utilizes a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting/air) filter.

Don’t Neglect Air Filter Maintenance

The thing about an HVAC air filter is that if it’s doing its job, it will get clogged on a regular basis. When the filter gets coated with dirt and debris, more of that material will end up gravitating to sensitive system components, impeding performance (as explained earlier). However, another negative effect will be restricted airflow through your system. When the air isn’t moving smoothly through ducts and registers, the equipment has to work harder and longer to send it through the system and achieve the desired thermostat setting. This will result in higher costs, lower efficiency and more equipment breakdowns. You can avoid all of these problems by reminding yourself to inspect the air filter once a month and replace it with a new one when the old one looks dirty or clogged.