What Happens If I Don't Change the HVAC Filter?

by Team eLocal
Critical case for an HVAC system repair

You rely on your HVAC system to keep you cool in summer and warm in winter, so it makes sense to give it all the TLC it needs to run at optimal capacity. Putting off HVAC maintenance for another day could leave you suffering in sweltering or freezing conditions, so it's best to set a regular maintenance schedule — and stick to it.

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Changing your HVAC filters is one of the simplest components of any HVAC maintenance routine, and you'll need to do it several times a year to keep your system running efficiently. However, many homeowners forget, which could lead to significant issues down the line.

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Why Do You Need to Change Your HVAC Filters?

Your HVAC filters keep dirt, dust and debris away from the essential components inside your air con unit and furnace. A dirty HVAC filter could allow dirt and grime inside your system, potentially causing damage and leading to expensive repairs. It's much easier to change your HVAC filters regularly than pay a professional to remove all this built-up gunk from inside your system or repair broken components.

When contaminants enter your HVAC system, they can find their way into your indoor air. Some HVAC filters remove allergens and other contaminants from the air, but they can't function correctly when they're old or dirty. Therefore, you may notice an increase in allergy symptoms if you use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters.

Clogged or dirty filters can also restrict airflow, and your system will have to work harder to keep the air moving and maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. Over time, the added strain on your system could cause frequent breakdowns, and you may need to replace your units prematurely.

Finally, old HVAC filters can deteriorate until they start breaking down, releasing pieces of filter material. This material can cause clogs inside your AC or furnace, and you may need to hire a professional to remove them.

What Would Happen If You Never Changed Your HVAC Filters?

If you never changed your HVAC filters, they would gradually become dirtier and dirtier until they cause a serious airflow blockage. You'd likely see a significant increase in your heating and cooling bills, issues with indoor air temperatures and reduced longevity of your HVAC system.

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How Often Do You Need to Change Your HVAC Filters?

Energy Star recommends replacing your HVAC filters at least every three months. However, it's worth checking your filters at least once per month during the summer and winter, when you use your HVAC system most. If you notice deteriorated or dirty HVAC filters, it's better to change them than wait for the three-month mark.

Several factors can affect how often you need to change your HVAC filters. You can usually get away with changing the filters every nine to 12 months if you don't use your system often — for example, HVAC filters in vacation homes accumulate dirt more slowly than those in your main residence. On the other hand, you may need to change your filters more frequently than every three months if you have allergies.

Pet hair can cause your HVAC filters to clog more frequently. Therefore, owners of shedding pets should consider changing or cleaning their HVAC filters every two months to keep their systems functioning correctly.

How to Change HVAC Filters

Changing HVAC filters is quick and straightforward, but it's essential to use the correct filters for your unit. If you're unsure, you can check your HVAC manual to determine which filters you need. Using the wrong filters could void your warranty.

Begin by switching off your HVAC unit and locating the filter. You'll find it between the duct carrying air into your unit and the unit's casing. You can access the filter by removing the front panels or a dedicated filter panel.

You can then remove the old HVAC filter and insert a new one, ensuring the arrows on the filter match the direction of airflow. Close the access panel and switch your unit back on.

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