Every homeowner wants to maintain the most comfortable living space but without drowning in debt due to high utility bills. One way to make your home more airy and livable while saving on costs is to turn your attention to your HVAC air filter! Here are some tips and tricks to optimize your air filter.
Why clean air filters are essential
Despite being a central part of the HVAC system, an air filter is often under-appreciated or ignored completely. The primary purpose of an air filter is to filter out dust and pollen that can circulate around your home and, in turn, reduce the air quality indoors.
Moreover, air filters work as the very first line of defense against bigger objects such as loose insulation that can be pulled into them, leading to a fire or causing damage to the HVAC system.
However, if you fail to change the air filter on a regular basis, it can cause a lot of problems. In fact, clogged air is the main cause of an HVAC system failing.
Some benefits of keeping your air filter in top condition include:
How to choose the best air filter
To be able to optimize the use of your air filter, it’s best to choose the right one. Here, many factors come into play, such as those listed below. Keeping them in mind can help you choose the most ideal one so you can reap as many benefits as possible.
MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It is given to filters based on their efficiency. Since each MERV rating has different characteristics, you need to choose the ideal one based on your needs.
● MERV 1-4
With such a filter, you will get minimal filtration. Choose this one if you only want a cheap filter to keep dust away from different equipment. Keep in mind; such a filter will hardly improve indoor air quality.
● MERV 5-8
This is the ideal rating for most homes. Filters with such a rating can capture small particles responsible for aggravating allergies without restricting the house's airflow.
● MERV 9-12
Filters that lie in this range are highly efficient and help you to breathe better. Also, this is a great pick if you or your family members have severe allergies or if you own multiple pets.
● MERV 13-16
Such a level of efficiency is mostly used in places like smoking lounges, hospitals, and commercial areas.
● MERV 17-20
Filters in the range are known as HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Absorption) filters. These are usually for vacuum cleaners and not HVAC systems.
An air filter’s resistance, also known as the pressure drop, is the filter's impact on the airflow of the HVAC system. If you want to increase your air filter efficiency, make sure to select one with a lower pressure drop. Such filters have less resistance, so they increase airflow and help the unit operate much more efficiently.
3. Dust-holding capacity
The dust-holding capacity is closely linked to pressure drop and is an indicator of the amount of dust that a filter can hold at a certain pressure-drop point. You can compare the dust-holding capacities of different air filters by looking at products with identical pressure-drop ratings. However, remember that as dust accumulates in your filter, the pressure-drop performance will go down.
To ensure that you get the optimal performance, change, or clean the filter every 1.5-2 months.
4. Dust-spot efficiency
As the name suggests, dust-spot efficiency is a measure of how well the filter removes large dust particles from the air in controlled test conditions. The higher the dust-spot efficiency is, the better will be the air quality.
5. Filter efficiency
The efficiency of a filter is rated either as initial efficiency when it is new or the sustained efficiency, which tells the average effectiveness that a filter can maintain as long as it works. Make sure you look into both before choosing an air filter.
Air filter tips: How to remember to clean it
You might remember the last time you cleaned the air filter properly for a couple of days, but after a week or so, you will have difficulty remembering when you cleaned it. For this reason, it’s important to remind yourself to change the filter. Here are some ways to remind yourself:
1. On the filter, mention the date you cleaned it last
2. Make use of your calendar and write the approximate date of when the filter should be
3. Set up reminders on your phone
When is it time to change the air filter?
Different MERV ratings demand different cleaning and changing frequency. For instance, a filter with a 1-8 MERV rating should be changed every 1-3 months and cleaned more frequently. Here are general guidelines about when it’s time to change the filter:
● Every 3-6 months in vacation homes or homes with only one occupant without any allergies or pets.
● Every 90 days in an average suburban home with no pets
● Every 60 days if there’s a house pet, specifically one cat or dog
● Every 30-45 days if two or more cats or dogs live in the house, and also if someone in the house has some allergies or respiratory problems.
Some other factors that also influence the frequency of changing include higher air pollution levels or nearby construction. If you have doubts, make a habit of checking the filter every month and then change it when it looks dirty.
While an air filter is a small part that most people often end up ignoring, it is important to keep the air filter tips mentioned above and ensure that you not only have the best air filter but also know when it’s time to clean it. Doing so will keep your HVAC system in top condition and will also guarantee good air quality!
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