Choosing the ideal furnace filter and changing it when it becomes dirty is as important to your HVAC system as changing the oil is to your car. Each plays a crucial part in keeping its system operating safely, efficiently and for a long time.
An overused furnace filter loses its effectiveness, permitting potentially harmful particles to flow through your home. It also slows airflow, which can damage your furnace and reduce its life span.
Making sure your furnace uses a clean filter that is suitable for your needs is not merely about keeping your furnace working efficiently. It’s also about creating excellent indoor air quality for your residence.
The quality of the air your family breathes is important to the heating professionals at Air-Right Energy Design. We've long focused on bettering indoor air quality in Manassas. Here, we’ve answered frequent questions about HVAC filters, including that particularly tricky question of what direction do you point a filter in your furnace or air conditioner?
How Often to Replace the Air Filter in a Furnace
Experts stress it's vital to replace dirty air filters in a furnace or air conditioner periodically. Dirt-clogged filters cause the system to worker harder than it should because it takes more energy to force air through the plugged-up filter.
Officials advise examining your furnace filter every month and replacing it if it’s dirty. You’ll know if the filter needs to be changed because it will be gray or black from dirt or dust. Those who have pets that shed will very likely want to replace their furnace air filter more often, because an effective air filter will trap pet hair circulating in a home.
Where Is the Air Filter in My Furnace?
In general, a furnace air filter is commonly located in the return air duct or blower compartment before the return air reaches the furnace. This ensures air entering the system is filtered before it goes through the furnace components and is heated.
Depending on the type of furnace, the filter may be located on the right, left, bottom or in some cases, within the furnace. It's generally housed within a slot, frame or cabinet for easy access and replacement. Always refer to your furnace's owner manual for details regarding filter location of your furnace.
Is a Furnace Filter the Same as an Air Filter?
The straightforward answer is, yes. In HVAC, a furnace filter and an air filter or air conditioning filter are essentially identical. While they might be called different things based on the current season— hot or cold—they are all filters that clean the air in your residence.
They each eliminate dust, allergens, bacteria and other airborne debris from the air that is drawn into the furnace and air conditioning system, making sure the air distributed throughout your home is clean and safe.
What Is a MERV Rating and What MERV Rating Do I Need?
Once you track down your old furnace filter and decide when it should be replaced, it’s time to pick a replacement. That means picking the level of filtration that you need. One way to do that is by picking an appropriate MERV rating for your needs.
MERV is an abbreviation for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values. The MERV rating measures the effectiveness of air filters at trapping airborne contaminants. The rating scale ranges from 1 to 20, with greater numbers indicating enhanced capabilities to filter smaller particles.
Experts say a filter with a MERV rating between 8 and 13 offers an ideal balance between having adequate indoor air quality without needlessly restricting airflow. However, people with some health conditions could need to purchase a filters with a higher MERV rating.
Which Way to Put the Air Filter in a Furnace or Air Conditioner
Putting an air filter in a furnace or air conditioner the proper way is crucial for the efficient operation of the heating or cooling system. Air filters are designed to be installed in a certain direction, indicated by an arrow located on the side of the filter frame. The filter should be put in with this arrow pointing in the direction of the furnace or air conditioning unit, which is the direction of the airflow. If you're unsure about the airflow direction, it may be helpful to remember that air always moves from the return duct towards the heat or cooling source. Therefore, make sure the arrow points toward the furnace or air conditioning unit.
Many people struggle with which direction to face an air filter. To help remember, consider snapping a quick photo with your cellular phone after the filter has been accurately installed by a professional. Or, you also could ask a technician to use a marker to write on the outside of your furnace which direction the filter should point. A great time to ask about this is during a routine furnace maintenance call.
How to Change a Furnace Air Filter
Switching out the filter on your furnace or AC is a simple process. Here is a step-by-step rundown of how to retreive a dirty air filter and exchange it for a new one:
- 1. Turn off your furnace: Make sure to turn off your furnace before starting up the process.
- Locate the furnace filter: Typically, the filter is found within the furnace or in the air return vent. Make note of which direction the arrow points on the filter, because you’ll want the arrow on the replacement filter to point in the same direction.
- Take out the old filter: Be mindful not to knock out any dust or particles.
- Note the date: Write down the date you replaced the filter on the new filter's frame. This will make it easier to keep track of when it's time for you to change it again.
- Put in new filter: Put in the new filter with the arrow pointing at the furnace, which is the direction of airflow and should be the same direction the arrow pointed on the old filter you are replacing.
- Secure the filter: Make sure the new filter fits correctly and close any latches or clips that hold it in the compartment.
- Turn on your furnace: Once the replacement filter is properly secured, you can turn your furnace back on.
Will a Dirty Air Filter Cause a Furnace Not to Work?
The simple answer is, yes, a dirty air filter can cause a furnace to quit working or decrease its lifespan. Changing your furnace or AC filter is one of the easiest things you can do to keep your system running efficiently.