Winter in Elizabethtown, KY requires a functional heater. Scheduling a tune-up before the cold weather rolls in is a great way to minimize your risk of mid-season breakdowns. However, you must also change your HVAC air filter regularly to ensure consistently reliable furnace operation, protect your indoor air quality (IAQ), and maintain reasonable heating costs. Read on to discover why HVAC air filters are so important in winter.

The Importance of Air Filters in Winter

Dirty Air Filters Are the Most Common Cause of Furnace Problems

Many minor and major HVAC repairs are the result of dirty air filters. In fact, when problems arise, the filter is always the first thing to check. When you pull your furnace filter out, hold it up to check if you see light passing through it. If light can still move through the filter, air can too.

Heavy build-ups of debris in the filter inhibit airflow throughout HVAC systems. This forces furnaces to work both harder and longer to draw air in, heat it, and distribute it. This extra effort can lead to short cycling, overheating, failure, and fires. It will also have a noticeable impact on your home energy bill.

Dry Indoor Air Has More Particulate Debris

During winter, you might struggle with an overly dry indoor environment. Running forced-air heaters depletes moisture in the air, even when furnaces are exceptionally well-maintained. Not only does dry indoor air lead to unpleasant symptoms, such as itchy, watery eyes, headaches, dry skin, and irritated nasal passages, but it also lowers indoor air quality.

The right amount of moisture in the air weighs airborne debris down. This helps keep much of the dirt, dander, pet hair, and other particulates floating around your home settled on floors and other surfaces. With overly dry indoor air, these same contaminants will circulate through your home indefinitely, and many will wind up trapped in your heating equipment.

A dirty filter is more likely to allow particulates through. Build-ups of debris on sensitive components in your furnace can cause performance-related problems. Having a clean filter in place will limit the amount of debris that makes its way onto or into components, such as the thermocouple or intake valve.

Clean HVAC Air Filters Keep Cold-Weather Struggles With Mold at Bay

Mold thrives in damp, humid conditions. While this doesn’t sound like winter in Kentucky, you can actually have muggy and oppressive indoor air if you don’t change your filter often enough. Thick build-ups of lint, fur, hair, dust, and other materials obstruct the flow of air throughout HVAC systems and diminish humidity regulation. If you have perpetually wet windows and walls, splotches of mold or mildew in dark corners, and damp, moldy smells that won’t go away, the underlying culprit could be your air filter.

How to Know If You’re Changing Your Furnace Filter Often Enough

Significant increases in heating costs, rising or declining humidity, or marked changes in your IAQ can all indicate that the furnace filter is dirty. Generally, homeowners are advised to inspect their filters monthly and change them every 30 to 90 days. However, this recommendation doesn’t work well for all households. For instance, you might need to inspect and change this component more often if:

  • You live near an airport or busy freeway
  • There’s active construction on your street
  • Your yard isn’t landscaped
  • You have one or more indoor pets
  • You have a large and active household

In some homes, the best schedule for filter changes is every three to four weeks. Waiting three months to perform a filter change in these environments could lead to humidity issues and heating emergencies. Smaller households with few to no IAQ concerns might need filter changes every three to six months instead.

Filter Ratings and Your Filter Change Schedule

All furnace filters come with maximum efficiency reporting value (MERV) ratings. These ratings run from one to 20, with one being the lowest possible MERV rating and 20 being the highest. Standard filters for the home have ratings between six and eight, and slightly advanced filters have MERV ratings between 10 and 13. Filters with MERV 14 or higher are generally for commercial or industrial HVAC systems and will overburden a home furnace.

Family Members’ Needs and Your Filter Change Schedule

The primary job of HVAC air filters is to protect the sensitive interior components of furnaces and air conditioners. However, checking and changing your filter every three to four weeks is likely best if someone in your home has a chronic respiratory illness.

Frequent filter changes can also benefit newborn babies, aging adults, and those with severe illnesses or compromised immunity. You can supplement your HVAC air filter with an integrated IAQ accessory for additional IAQ improvements. Additions like air scrubbers, media filters, and air purifiers pick up pathogens and gaseous contaminants that standard air filters cannot. Whole-house humidifiers and dehumidifiers can support your furnace’s humidity control and eliminate problems with overly dry or overly moist indoor air. Turn to us for IAQ solutions.

Filter Changes and Your Furnace Manufacturer’s Warranty

Furnace manufacturer warranties are mutually binding agreements. They establish what HVAC equipment manufacturers will pay for if problems result from faulty assembly or defective parts and products. They also outline the maintenance requirements that warranty holders are subject to, including requirements for filter changes. You’ll likely find a minimum schedule for routine filter changes when reading through your warranty documents. Failing to adhere to any maintenance-related stipulation could cause your warranty to be voided and could result in claim denials or delays.

Tips for Changing Your HVAC Air Filter for the Very First Time

If you’re new to furnace filter changes, turn your HVAC system off and take some time to study your current filter’s orientation before taking it out. You might even want to take a quick photo with your tablet or mobile phone. After removing your filter, immediately put it in a large plastic or paper bag and deposit it in the trash. This way, small particulates don’t break off and reenter your environment.

Put your replacement filter in, carefully examining its orientation and size. An improperly sized or incorrectly installed HVAC air filter can be just as detrimental to your heating system as a dirty or no filter. You can even compare your work to your photos of the original filter.

Our technicians will swap old HVAC air filters during annual furnace maintenance. You can ask to watch this process before attempting it on your own. You can even ask our technicians to help you establish the correct filter change schedule for your home based on the needs of your household and your unique range of IAQ concerns.

We’re proud to serve Elizabethtown, KY and the surrounding communities in central Kentucky. You can count on us for expert electrical, plumbing, heating, and cooling services. We also maintain an impressive selection of residential garage doors. To sign up for our preventative maintenance plan or to learn more about the importance of maintenance, get in touch with Absolute Services now.