I’m not going to lie, I have never changed a furnace filter. I have never even thought about changing my furnace filter. It’s one of those things that in our household, I have always had someone else that has done it and honestly, I had no idea how often or even how to do it.
In property management, we have many multi-complex properties that the tenants don’t have access to the filters so we arrange to have it done based on the owner’s request and recommended maintenance schedule. There are also other properties that the tenants do have access and the owners provide the service as well. Fall is one of our scheduled times to change filters, and I got to thinking, hmmm, if I didn’t have someone else do it, would I know what to do?
I don’t know how to change a filter, how often it should be done, what kinds of filters there are, where to get them, what size to get, how much they cost, etc. Embarrassing, I know!
If you live in a rental and don’t have access to the furnace filter, chances are, it is getting done for you. If you do have access to the filter and no one is coming to do it, based on the information I’ve just read, it is in your best interest to keep on top of it for your health and for the health of the equipment.
Here are a few questions that I had and thought I would answer them for you as well:
IF I LIVE IN A RENTAL, DO I HAVE TO CHANGE MY FILTER?
Some lease agreements require you to change your filter on a scheduled basis, some do not. If you have a lease agreement that has this clause, CHANGE YOUR FILTERS AS SCHEDULED. According to most leading HVAC manufacturers, a clogged air filter is the primary cause of equipment failure because the air handler has to work overtime to make up for the lack of flow through the filter. If you fail to keep up on the filter changes, and the unit fails, a $15 maintenance issue could turn into a $2500 repair and you may have to foot the bill! Also, when you change the filter, keep a log right on the furnace itself so you can track the dates of the change to show it has been done. You can also keep your receipts as proof.
If you don’t have the requirement in your lease, technically you don’t HAVE to, but, if you knew what was in the filter, you’d WANT TO. Filters are trapping pollen, mold spores, pet dander, lint and other contaminants. If your filter isn’t working, you are breathing all of this in! The Healthy House Institute reports that “Health effects from breathing particles can range from coughing, wheezing, and asthma attacks to more serious effects, such as decreased lung function, cancer, heart attacks, and premature death. They can also cause allergic reactions.”
I’m pretty sure that even if you don’t HAVE to, you would want to considering the list of potential health threats from NOT doing it.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
So we briefly touched on the cost above, but seriously, this is one of the most inexpensive things you can do to safeguard your health and the equipment. I was shocked. I thought it was going to be $50 per filter or more like my fridge filter (which feels ridiculous every time I have to change it).
The most basic air filters cost as little as $1-2! The most expensive filters which are specific to high tech systems like those used in hospitals are $100, but only need to be changed once a year. A high end filter is $15-20.
Bob Vila has great information on the breakdown of types and costs of filters to get you started:
HOW DO I CHANGE MY FILTER?
We have clearly established that even if you don’t HAVE to, you absolutely SHOULD change your filter, and change it as recommended. It isn’t that expensive and the benefits far outweigh the minimal costs associated with it.
I really love You Tube when it comes to doing mechanical things that I have no idea how to do. There are so many videos that will walk you step by step on how to change a filter, its great! What I would recommend is that you check the brand of the furnace and then search by the particular brand. Chances are the manufacturer will have a video of your exact model! If not, you’re bound to find something close!
Although changing a filter is pretty simple on most units, there are ways to botch it, like installing backwards, putting one in that doesn’t fit, etc. If you do this, the filter won’t work at all!
Consumer reports has a good step by step on how to change the filter if you are more of it read it, rather than watch it kind of person:
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I CHANGE IT?
Each system will differ, therefore you should read the manufacturer’s instructions to determine how often it should be changed. Thankfully, we have the internet, so if you don’t have manufacturer’s instructions handy, find the model and look it up!
In addition to the manufacturers recommendations, there are also several other factors like animals, smoking, dust in the area, how much you run the heat or a/c, do you keep windows and doors open.
Based on the variable factors, here are a few good guides to how often to change based on the varying factors:
It has been pounded into our heads to change the batteries in our smoke detectors every spring and fall because detectors are life savers. From what I’ve read about filters, they are pretty much lung savers and at minimum, if we can remember to pick up a new filter when buying batteries and change them out at the same time, that would be a great start!
Good luck and keep those filters changed, your lungs will thank you for it