This is probably the most common advice about heating and cooling systems that you'll ever hear: check and change the air filter regularly. But what makes your HVAC system's air filter so important? What role does it play, and what happens when you go "too long" without changing it?
Below, we'll explain what your heating and cooling system's air filter does and what problems arise when it gets too dirty.
Your Air Filter’s Job
Your air filter's primary task is to keep dust and other airborne particles from entering your heating and cooling equipment. That's why it's usually at the mouth of a return vent, where air travels from your home into your HVAC system. The air filter can also help improve your indoor air quality by trapping pollutants and preventing them from circulating throughout your home.
5 Problems Caused by Dirty Air Filters
Your air filter is meant to get dirty. However, if it gets clogged with dust, hair, and other particles, problems will arise.
Decreased Airflow. If your air filter gets too dirty, that blanket of dust will block air from entering your HVAC system.
Lower Equipment Performance. Without adequate airflow, your HVAC system will struggle to heat or cool your air. It will need to work harder and run longer to reach your desired temperature.
Higher Energy Bills. A lack of airflow lowers your HVAC system's efficiency. Because the equipment needs to cycle for more extended periods to make your home comfortable, the system will cost you more to operate.
Increased Risk of a Breakdown. Too little air flowing through your system increases its risk of overheating and puts more than one of its components in jeopardy. If the problem because severe enough, your system could break down completely.
Shorter Equipment Lifespan. Even if your system doesn’t fail right away, inadequate airflow will put its components through unnecessary wear and tear. This means you may have to replace major parts or even your entire system sooner than anticipated.
Though it may seem insignificant, the air filter can significantly impact your HVAC system's efficiency. Even though the packaging often says that the filters will last for up to 90 days, it's wise to check on your filter after the first 30 days and then weekly after that. If you're using your HVAC system a lot, if you own pets, or if you've recently done activities that have stirred up a lot of dust, you can expect your air filter to need a replacement before 90 days are up.