Home Energy Hack: Find the Right Filter for Your HVAC

Too many homeowners ignore basic HVAC maintenance, even though heating and cooling represent the largest use of energy in most homes. Regularly changing or cleaning your furnace filter is critical to maintaining your home’s air quality, improving the efficiency of your HVAC system, and extending the life of your equipment. Luckily, changing your furnace filter is a simple task you can tackle on your own with a little bit of knowledge.

What’s a furnace filter?

Before we get to changing or cleaning your filter, you need to know what you’re dealing with. Your furnace filter catches contaminants as air runs through your HVAC system. This keeps the air inside your home clean and prevents damage to your equipment. Filters usually consist of a frame, a fiberglass filter, and metal mesh. They come in different sizes, depending on your system.

How often do you need to think about this?

Joe Spear, energy advisor with Carroll White REMC brings more than 20 years of HVAC experience to his role. He recommends cleaning or changing your filter every time you receive your utility bill or checking it every 30 days. However, you may want to consider changing it more often if you have multiple pets, family members with respiratory problems, or live in an area with high air pollution.

Thick or thin?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all for furnace filters, and getting the size right is important. Consult your HVAC system’s owner’s manual to see what the manufacturer recommends. You’ll also want to pay attention to the filter’s MERV rating. This indicates the size of particles it can trap. Generally, we recommend a filter with a MERV rating of 8 or above, but if you go too high you can restrict airflow, which is detrimental to an HVAC system. Don’t skimp on the cost—choose the highest quality filter you can afford to see the best results. Again, check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation.

What’s the recipe for a successful installation?

  • Step 1: Find the filter compartment. It’s typically between the return air duct and the furnace. 
  • Step 2: Open the compartment door. 
  • Step 3: Slide out the used filter and dispose of it if necessary. If it’s a reusable filter, follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. 
  • Step 4: Slide your new or clean furnace filter back into the filter compartment and position it using the printed arrows on the frame. Consider writing the date you installed the filter on the frame, so you know when you’re due for the next replacement. 
  • Step 5: Replace and secure the filter compartment door.

Need more help?

If you’re still not sure which filter to buy or how to install it, you can contact your local HVAC company and sign up for an ongoing maintenance plan. If you don’t already have a relationship with an HVAC company, consider contacting your electric co-op’s home energy advisor. We’ll make sure you’re using the right filter for your home. 

Furnace filter replacement is an easy way to extend the life of your HVAC equipment while saving energy and money throughout the year. Stay on top of this simple task, and you can take the energy savings to the bank.