How to Find — And Change — Your Heater Air Filter
Changing your heater air filter is a simple, but essential, step you can take to keep your HVAC system running smoothly. But, many don’t know where to find it, how to change, or when to do it.
It’s just one of those things they don’t teach you in school.
In this post, we’ll help you find your heater air filter and tell you how to change it. We’ll also make sure you know which one to buy. And, we’ll go over times when you should replace them more often — or if you should invest in a specialized model.
Meanwhile, if you have any questions or concerns about your filter or HVAC system, give Cipollone a call. We’ve been in the business since the 50s, and we’re happy to help you out.
How often should I change my heater air filter?
You should change your heater air filter at least at the beginning of the season. That’s four times a year. If you have central air, this covers you AC, too. The same circulation system handles your cooling and heating. In some situations, more often is necessary.
For the most part, buying a new one is easy. The filters, or screens, are usually less than $10, and you can find them at any hardware store, be it a mom-and-pop or big-box outlet.
Most times, you don’t need anything special. But, sometimes you’ll need something a little stronger, or specialized.
We’ll get into those situations in a little bit. But first, we’ll start with the one you already have in your system.
How Do I Find My Heater Air Filter?
Finding your heater air filter should be easy. There’s often an open slot on one side, at the bottom of the unit. Look for an enclosure jutting out from the frame. Then, reach in and carefully slide out the filter. You shouldn’t need to unfasten or unscrew anything.
If you’re unsure of what filter to buy, start by sliding this one out. You’ll see a cardboard frame with a pleated sheet in it. That’s the whole filter.
If the fabric is grey, it’s definitely time to swap it out. If it’s not, then you haven’t waited too long to replace it. But, if it’s been three months, you’re still better off staying on schedule.
Just remember to take it out, and put it in, slowly. There aren’t any moving parts in there that you can break. But, you could get the fabric stuck on something. Or, you’ll jam the filter and damage it if you miss the slot.
All in all, you should be fine. Just go slowly, and you’ll get a feel for it.
The dimensions of your filter will be on the cardboard. There are a few standard sizes, so this way you’ll know which one to get at the hardware store.
What Happens If I Don’t Change My Filter?
You probably won’t notice any dramatic change or breakdown if you don’t change your air filter. Not for a while, anyway. But, there will be subtle problems that will get worse and worse. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you may not realize that a clogged filter is the problem.
Here’s what happens: The filter is responsible for screening out dust, dirt, and other debris. As it enters the ductwork, it gets trapped in the screen instead of circulating.
If you had no filter, you’d have dust, allergens and other junk blowing out of your vents.
Then there’s the opposite: A clogged filter.
Eventually, there’s so much junk in the filter that it won’t even let air pass through it. Then, you’ll start noticing problems.
Poor circulation is the first one. When air is blocked, it won’t come out of your vents. You’ll hear the heater working, but the house will be cold.
Meanwhile, your energy bills will go up. Even though you don’t feel the heat, that doesn’t mean the system is generating it. And, it’s working even harder than usual to push it through.
Cracked Heat Exchangers
Finally, there’s the big problem: A cracked heat exchanger. If the filter — or something else — blocks that heat long enough, it will keep backing up into the system.
Now, believe it or not, the inside of your heater shouldn’t always be that hot. But, if the hot air can’t escape it will eventually overheat the system.
You may notice the system blowing cold air in the winter. That’s how it tries to cool back down.
But eventually the excess heat, plus the back-and-forth between hot and cold will cause the unit to break down for good.
What kind of heater air filter do I need?
Usually, the average, off-the-shelf filter will do the trick. But, you may need a stronger filter, or a different model if you’re dealing with:
- Pets and Dander
- Allergies and Air Quality
- Tobacco Smoke
There are other factors to consider, of course, but for now, let’s focus on these three. They’re some of the most common.
Pets and Dander
If you have pets, there’s a lot of fur and dander in the air. That gets trapped in the air filter and gums it up faster than usual.
In this case, start by changing the filter every two months. Compare them to the first one you took out. Are they significantly cleaner than that first one? If so, you’re on the right track.
If it’s completely grey, then change it more often.
Allergies, Asthma and Air Quality
In the summer, you may want to change it out every month. Or, consider a stronger filter than normal. Those will trap smaller particles that the regular filters won’t catch. Those tiny particles can cause a lot of trouble for allergy sufferers.
However, don’t go overboard. If you get one that’s too strong, your heater may not be strong enough to push air past it.
If anyone smokes in the house, that affects the air quality — and the air filter. Particles in the smoke get caught in the filter.
Changing out the filter more often will keep your system working better overall. And, again you may want to invest in one that catches smaller particles.
Also, you can look at different models to take care of the smell. For instance, carbon-activated or charcoal filters will do a better job reducing odors.
Be aware, however, that there’s no filter out there that will completely get rid of tobacco smoke residue. And, it can have some long-lasting effects.
If you’re looking for a filter to handle a specific problem, give Cipollone a call. We’ll help you find the one you need. And, we can help you look at air purifiers and other tools to help you out.