How Do You Know When Your Home’s AC Filter Needs To Be Replaced?

Senior male reaching up to open filter holder for air conditioning filter in ceiling

For many homeowners, changing your home’s AC filter is in the same category as changing your car’s oil and cleaning out your dryer vents – inconvenient and easy to forget. Unhelpfully, AC manufacturers often put things like “change your filter every one to three months or as needed” in their product manuals. But what does “as needed” mean? And isn’t one month between filter changes an awfully short time? Let’s look into the factors impacting air filters and discuss how to tell when it’s time to change yours.

Why is it important to change your AC filter?

Changing your AC filter is one of the most important things you can do as a homeowner to protect your HVAC equipment. Your air conditioner needs good airflow to do its job, and a dirty, clogged filter will make it work harder to circulate air. This puts stress on your system and causes it to run less efficiently, which contributes to increased wear and tear. All of this makes breakdowns much more likely. When you look at it like that, changing your air filter regularly is a small price to pay to protect your expensive HVAC systems!

There are several factors that impact how dirty your home’s air filter(s) will get:

  • Filter quality – Inexpensive fiberglass filters will get dirtier more quickly, while high-end filters can last months longer.
  • Pets in the home – Pet dander, fur, and odors all find their way into your HVAC system to get caught in your air filter. Pet owners need to change their filter more frequently than those without indoor pets.
  • Size of home – A smaller home puts less demand on your HVAC equipment and circulates less air overall. Pay attention to filter size, though – a smaller home may also have a smaller system with a smaller filter, which means that the filter may not last as long.
  • Frequency of use – How often is your HVAC system running? If you live in a climate with extreme temperatures, your heater or AC may run all day everyday and require more frequent filter changes. On the other hand, if you only run your heating or cooling equipment for a few hours each day, you can go a lot longer between filter changes.
  • Air quality – Both indoor and outdoor air quality affect your HVAC system. If you live in the desert and often have a lot of dust in your outdoor air, this dust will end up in your air filter. If someone smokes inside the house, this lowers your indoor air quality and necessitates more frequent filter changes.

Consider these factors when weighing whether it’s time to change your air filter. For example, if you use fiberglass filters, have pets, and run your AC day and night, you should probably change it every month. However, if you don’t have pets, use high-quality filters, and only run your AC for a few hours a day, you may be able to get away with going 6 months between changes.

Signs that it’s time to change your home’s air filter

The factors listed above are important to consider, but even the most attentive homeowners can let AC filter changes fall by the wayside amid a busy life. The signs below will typically occur when you’re way overdue for a filter change, so it’s best to change your filter before it gets to this point. If you do notice these signs, change your filter right away:

  • The filter looks dirty – This is simple but effective – take a look at your air filter. If it looks dirty, dusty, or has clumps of hair and dust, it’s time to change it!
  • Allergy symptoms worsen – If you or someone in your home suffers from allergies or asthma, dirty air filters can make their symptoms worse than normal. If you are experiencing increased respiratory problems only in your home and nowhere else, check to see if your air filter is the culprit.
  • The areas around your air vents are dusty – Clogged air filters may release dust and other contaminants into circulated air, which then pushes them out of the vents. If you notice that surfaces near the vents are excessively dusty, you should probably change your air filters.
  • Your energy bill has increased – A clogged filter makes your HVAC equipment work harder and decreases its efficiency. This means it will have to use more energy to do the same job, resulting in higher energy bills.
  • Your AC isn’t cooling you sufficiently – Reduced airflow and decreased efficiency caused by a dirty filter can impact your AC’s ability to cool your home. If you notice that its performance has dropped off recently or that it’s not cooling your home evenly, changing your filter can make a big difference.

Proper Maintenance = Better Cooling and a Longer Life for Your AC

With all that said, if you can’t remember the last time you changed your filter, it’s probably time to change it. And if you can’t remember the last time you had maintenance done on your AC – or if you’ve never had maintenance performed on your AC – it’s most likely time to schedule a tune-up with a reliable HVAC contractor. Maintenance will keep your AC working at top efficiency, which will also keep your electricity bill in check. More importantly, regular maintenance can prevent repairs and breakdowns and will extend the life of your air conditioning system.

If you live in the Orlando, Jacksonville, Haines City, or Tampa area and want to make sure that your AC will be there for you through 100+ degree days, schedule AC maintenance with Air Flow Designs. Whether you’re gearing up for the hottest months of the year or are looking for routine maintenance to keep things running well, our exclusive 27-Point AC Maintenance check will get the job done!

Is it time for maintenance on your air conditioner? Schedule a 27-point AC inspection with Air Flow Designs In Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, or Haines City! You can reach out online for service today.