Many homeowners take residential air filters for granted, not realizing the essential role they play in the forced-air heating and cooling process. They not only clean the air as it passes through your HVAC system; they also keep dirt and dust from contaminating sensitive heating and cooling equipment.

A wide range of furnace or AC filter sizes, shapes and efficiency levels are available for homeowners. The paperwork with your central heating or cooling system should recommend the correct type of filter to use. In households without serious dust or other air-quality issues, a medium-efficiency filter purchased at a home improvement store or heating and cooling business for under $15 should work fine. Without expert consultation, however, don’t buy an extremely high-efficiency filter. These can impede system airflow, which hurts operational efficiency and performance.

Make Sure Your Home Air Filter Is Clean

If your home air filter gets clogged with dust or debris, it can’t do its job. It can cause these two problems:

• When an AC or furnace air filter gets clogged, it can’t let as much air through. A forced-air HVAC system absolutely depends on a smooth flow of air into the equipment, and then on to ducts and registers in the rooms of your home. If airflow is restricted, heating and cooling will be uneven, and some parts of your home may not get comfortable. Plus your equipment will work harder to meet temperature demands, resulting in wasted energy and eventual breakdowns.

• When the furnace or AC filter is clogged, dust and dirt particles will fall into sensitive equipment such as the blower motor. This increases friction and reduces efficiency, wasting energy and impairing performance.

Residential Air Filters Are Simple to Replace

In most households, the air filter slot is easy to find. The process of replacing an old filter is as simple as sliding it out of the slot and sliding a new one back in. In systems that require a more involved process, the equipment manual will have that information.