Have you changed the air filters in your home in the last one, two or three months? If not, it’s time to do so. Regularly replacing your air filters helps trap indoor pollutants, minimize your energy bill, reduce indoor allergy and asthma triggers and impede the growth of mold and mildew. Whether you have a central HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), a window or wall unit or some other solution, there’s probably some sort of filter that needs regular maintenance to work best. Here’s how to change or clean your home air filters.
Begin by turning off your HVAC unit. If you’re unable to do so directly, shut off its breaker.
Remove the current filter or filters, which should be found inside the unit itself or in the air return vents. Refer to the device’s manual if you’re having difficulty locating or removing the filters. An arrow on the filter should indicate the direction of the airflow. Consider marking this direction for future reference by drawing an arrow nearby with a permanent marker.
Replace or clean
If the filter has a plastic frame, it’s typically reusable. This type of filter should be regularly cleaned by vacuuming it with an attachment and then rinsing the filter with water. Allow the filter to fully dry before reinstalling it.
If the filter has a cardboard frame, it’s disposable. Make note of the filter size, which should be printed on the side of the frame.
You can purchase replacement filters at hardware stores, home improvement centers or online. Prices typically run from $20-80 per filter. Choose filters that match the size of the one you’re replacing or the size recommended by your HVAC manual. Improperly sized filters may not fit or work correctly in your system. Purchasing a pack of filters is usually the best value and the most convenient long-term option.
There are a few important terms to know when shopping for air filters:
- MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value): Higher numbers indicate finer filtration, with top performers typically boasting a MERV above 10.
- MPR (Micro-Particle Performance Rating): Rates the ability to trap airborne particles smaller than 1 micron, with the best filters often scoring between 1500 and 1900.
- FPR (Filter Performance Rating: A scale from 1 to 10, with higher numbers indicating better filtering.
- HEPA (high-efficiency particulate-arresting): an electrostatic filter technology suited to removing dust from airflow.
Install your new or cleaned filter. Refer to the markings on the filter to determine the direction it should face. Installing a filter backward may reduce the airflow or block it altogether. Make sure the filter slides all the way into place, then replace any covers or items you removed to access the filter.
Keep a record of your filter replacement dates, such as on a note posted nearby. Mark your calendar or set a digital reminder to replace the filter again every one to three months. If you have pets or a large family, replacing your filter more often is recommended. With a regular replacement schedule for your filters, you and everyone in your home can literally breathe easier.