There’s no doubt about it. Keeping your HVAC air filters clean and functional plays a major role in keeping your household running smoothly and efficiently. Although it’s easy to take the status of those filters for granted, doing so would be a costly mistake. If they become overly dirty or clogged, excessive strain is put on your heating and cooling units. When those systems are forced to work harder, it puts their health and longevity at risk; not to mention the negative effects on your home comfort and energy costs.

So, how often do you need to change your HVAC air filters to keep things running in tiptop shape? There’s actually no one-size-fits-all answer. Every situation is unique, and there are a few variables that you should consider to determine the ideal timeframe.

What Kind of Filters Are They?

When you’re deciding how often to replace your air filters, a good method is to take the baseline life expectancy for the filters and then adjust it based on several factors. However, that baseline life expectancy will differ depending on which type of HVAC filters your household uses. There are two primary kinds of air filters: pleated and fiberglass.

Pleated air filters, which tend to be the more expensive and effective type, will last roughly 90 days before you need to replace them. Fiberglass filters are more affordable, but they won’t trap quite as many contaminant particles, and you’ll typically need to change them on a monthly basis. To figure out how often replacing the filters in your home is necessary, start with these timeframes, then factor in other aspects of your lifestyle.

Size of Your Home

The size of your home can have a direct impact on how quickly your HVAC air filters become dirty. For example, if you have a big, spacious house, your HVAC system will regularly need to circulate quite a bit of air to keep the climate comfortable. The more air that your heating and cooling units circulate, the more contaminants will get trapped in the filters. So, with a big house, your air filters probably won’t stay clean for as long as they would in a small one.

That said, there are exceptions to this rule, primarily in the cases of small homes with smaller appliances. Sometimes, if a house isn’t particularly large, it will have smaller heating and cooling units with smaller air filters. In those situations, the filter will likely get dirty at roughly the same rate as a larger filter would in a big home.

Current Time of Year

Another major factor you need to consider is the time of the year. There’s a higher chance that you’ll need to replace your air filters at different frequencies during different seasons. This is mostly due to the differences in how often you’ll be running your heating and cooling appliances.

During the hot Northern Virginia summers, your air conditioner will probably be running quite often to keep your home cool. Similarly, when the temperature drops below freezing during the winter, you’ll be relying heavily on your furnace to stay comfortable. Since your HVAC system will be circulating air frequently during these seasons, its air filters will most likely be catching many contaminant particles. On the other hand, during the less extreme seasons of spring and autumn, there probably won’t be nearly as much air passing through the HVAC filters. So, for most households, the air filters need to be changed more often during periods of significant heat or cold than they do when the temperatures are mild.

Presence of Pets

If you live with cats, dogs, or any other furry animals, it most likely means that you should be replacing your HVAC air filters more often. Even if your pets have short hair and consistently groom themselves, their presence alone will result in more dander and hair accumulating around your home. Inevitably, some of those contaminants are going to get picked up and circulated through your HVAC system, which will lead to the filters becoming dirty or clogged more rapidly.

If any of your pets regularly spend time outdoors, then they could be tracking dirt, pollen, mold, and other contaminants from outside into your household. Eventually, those substances will also end up in your HVAC air filters. As a general rule, the more pets you have, the more diligent you should be about the replacing your filters.

Do You Suffer From Allergy Symptoms?

If you or anyone else living in your home suffers from allergies, it should definitely factor into how often you replace your HVAC air filters. If you let your home’s filters go too long without being changed, it’s going to eventually lead to more dust and other contaminants being present in your indoor air. If you have allergies, that’s going to result in far more coughing, sneezing, runny noses, and other discomforts. So, if you want to prevent yourself or a family member from experiencing those annoying symptoms, replace your HVAC filters more often. This is especially important during the spring because of all the pollen floating around in the air.

Occupants of Your Home

Usually, the occupancy of your household will play a large role in the rate at which your HVAC air filters become dirty. In fact, both the number of people living in your home and their ages can have an impact on how often you need to replace the filters.

As a general rule, having more people living in your home will mean that you need to replace your air filters more often. For instance, if there are five of you dwelling in the house, there’s a good chance that at least a few people will constantly be cycling in and out of the home. Alternatively, if your household only consists of one or two people, there will be much more time in which no one is home, and the HVAC filters won’t have to cycle as much air and contaminants through them.

You should also consider the ages of those who are living in your house. Typically, young children and the elderly will be much more sensitive to airborne pollutants like mold, dust mites, and pollen. So, if anyone under the age of 12 or over the age of 70 lives in your home, you should be especially proactive about keeping the filters clean. Additionally, it would be a good idea to invest in the higher-quality pleated filters; they should do a better job of keeping your indoor air cleaner.

Your Heating and Cooling Professionals

If you’re looking for ways to keep your indoor air clean, getting your HVAC unit tuned up is always an effective option. At Meade’s Heating and Air, we can provide high-quality maintenance, repairs, and installation for your heating and air conditioning systems. We also offer 24/7 service for emergencies, so if you’re ever in dire need, you can always reach out to us day or night. We proudly serve Northern Virginia and surrounding areas. To learn more or schedule an appointment, give us a call today!

Meade's Heating and Air

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