Should You Run Your Furnace Without an Air Filter?

Many homeowners already know that clogged air filters left in place for too long can affect a furnace’s efficiency and safety. You may be wondering if you can skip all the hassle by not using an HVAC filter at all. While your furnace will still technically run without one, not utilizing a filter will negatively impact your home’s air quality and shorten the system’s overall lifespan. Your air filter plays a vital role in your home’s indoor comfort. Keep reading to learn more about the importance of utilizing suitable HVAC filters.

Air Filter Basics

Heating systems like furnaces and heat pumps are designed to use air filters. These filters serve as a vital barrier against dust, debris, and other contaminants. As your furnace pulls air in, it also attracts hair and dander that would otherwise collect on the system’s internal components and coils.

Without a filter in place, allergens and pollutants are recirculated back into your home. Excessive airborne debris can make it harder to feel comfortable. You’re more likely to experience unexplained cold symptoms and have a hard time keeping your house clean. Children, the elderly, and immunocompromised family members are most at risk in an environment with poor air quality.

Filters are not designed to be left in place indefinitely. While some options can last up to six months or even a year, many households use filters that must be replaced every one to three months. If you forget to change your filter, it can cause just as much damage, if not more, than not using one at all.

A clogged filter impedes the flow of air into your furnace. Your heating system will then have to work harder to produce and push heat through the home. If your heat exchanger gets too hot due to a lack of airflow, it can melt wiring or trigger a sudden system shutdown. In addition to racking up your monthly energy costs, a clogged filter can also increase your maintenance and repair needs.

Dangers of Not Using Filters

Many households opt to use disposable filters because they’re less expensive and easy to find. You may discover one day that your filter is full, but you don’t have another on hand. Rather than running out to the store, you may be tempted to let your furnace run without one. Fortunately, temporarily running your furnace for a night without a filter is unlikely to cause any serious damage. However, the longer your heating system runs without one, the more your indoor comfort will be impacted.

Along with exasperating respiratory issues like asthma or pet allergies, allowing debris into your furnace can pollute your ductwork. You’ll be at a higher risk of moisture issues that could lead to mold and mildew outbreaks. More contaminants will accumulate throughout your ducts, making it easier for pests and insects to create nests. Pest issues drastically worsen your air quality and bring your family into contact with dangerous pollutants.

An air filter’s primary function is to protect your heating system. With no filter in place, your furnace’s coils, belts, and motors will become coated in unpleasant dirt and grime. These issues increase the stress on your system, leading to premature damage and worn-out parts. You could be faced with serious issues relating to a blower motor, heat exchanger, or evaporator coils only a few years after installing your new furnace.

Learning About Different Air Filters

The best way to protect your furnace is to use the right filters for your household. While disposable fiberglass filters may be easy to find and buy in bulk, they need to be replaced often. They’re also not great at catching smaller contaminants that can affect your health. These filters are okay to use in a pinch, but it’s better to invest in higher-quality options.

Pleated filters are often made of sturdy materials like polyester or cotton. They’re folded and pleated several times to increase overall surface area, allowing them to catch more pollutants. The more pleats these filters have, the more efficient they are at removing contaminants from your breathing air. Some of these filters can last up to three months before needing to be replaced.

Electrostatic air filters often utilize several layers to trap debris. While the first media air filter layer catches large debris, the following layers work to collect smaller particulates. These filters can be washed and aren’t too expensive to replace. However, outfitting your furnace to accept this type of filter requires a higher up-front cost.

Choosing the right filter for your home depends on your family’s health needs and your number of pets. If you have loved ones with respiratory sensitivities, you need filters with a higher Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. Most homes have filters with MERV ratings between eight and 14. MERV ratings higher than that are often reserved for medical settings.

Multiple pets in the home will fill your filter up faster, making it necessary to switch it out more regularly. If you struggle to remember to change your filter, consider setting a reminder via your smart thermostat.

Importance of Healthy HVAC Routines

It’s easy to fall into bad HVAC habits when you’re busy with your regular work and family schedule. You may want to take the easier route by grabbing the most convenient filters and neglecting your furnace’s care needs. The best way to maximize your heating system’s usefulness is by scheduling routine professional maintenance.

Bring in an HVAC expert in the spring and fall to examine and service your heating and cooling systems. A trained technician will take the time to fully evaluate your furnace for signs of wear, tear, and stress. These appointments can include minor repairs, part replacements, and a thorough cleaning of the system’s internal components.

Even if you’re regularly switching out your filters, dirt and debris will still slowly accumulate in your system over time. A technician clears away those contaminants and prevents your system from struggling with unnecessary blockages.

Your HVAC expert will also be able to help you pick out filters that match your household needs. They’ll take a close look at your home, system, and family to give brand and MERV rating recommendations. Learning the ins and outs of available air filters can be confusing and time-consuming. That’s why you should count on the professionals to provide exceptional, industry-grade HVAC service you can rely on.

Your Ideal Indoor Comfort Team

Absolute Services offers superior HVAC, plumbing, garage door, and electrical services in Louisville, KY and the surrounding areas. Since 2008, our family-owned business has offered fast service and the highest standards of craftsmanship. You can always trust us to provide upfront pricing and care that guarantees your complete satisfaction. Let us maintain, repair or install your home’s heating and cooling systems. We can even replace your thermostat, test your indoor air quality or service your ductless mini-split. Contact Absolute Services in Louisville today to schedule your next HVAC appointment.

company icon