Clean grills and filters mean less work for your HVAC

By Laura Matney, POWER MOVES Energy Efficiency Programs Manager 

Who knew spring-cleaning could unearth energy savings? Old school papers, lost library books, and five of my dog’s tennis balls were no surprise, but I was stunned by what lurked behind my filing cabinet: a return grill clogged up with dust and pet hair. Yuck.

The return grill pulls air into your furnace or air conditioner. If it’s not clean, your system works harder to pull air from your rooms to condition it. More work for your system means more energy cost for you.

Because my return grill was hiding behind a filing cabinet, I hadn’t been vacuuming it as often as I should have. I hope you do better than I did and give your grills—even those that are out of sight—a quick vacuum every month or so. (And if you do have furniture blocking a grill, make sure that you keep it pulled out from the wall to help encourage airflow.)

It’s also a good idea to make a monthly habit of checking the main filter on your air handler. That filter traps dust, pet hair, dirt, and so on, to keep that grime off wet air conditioning coils in summer, off the blower year-round, and off heating burners or coils in the winter. Without an effective filter, you risk breakdowns, and you pay more for the extra work your system is doing.

How often you need a new filter depends on your household. For instance, I have kids running in and out of my house, a cat, and two German Shepherds who shed like crazy, so I have to change my filter more often than my parents, who don’t have indoor pets—or kids.

Many of our co-ops offer a service called This program enables you to order filters online without shipping fees and to get reminder e-mails that keep you on track for checking and changing your filters.

Here’s to your comfortable, energy-efficient spring and summer with nice, clean filters and grills—even the hidden ones.