Most people have a basic understanding of what a filter does. It keeps things out of where you don’t want them to be. That’s the simplest way of putting it, right?
In the case of your HVAC air filter, it’s easy to assume that the point is to keep contaminants out of your indoor air. However, this actually isn’t the purpose of this particular air filter. This air filter is in place to keep dust, dirt, and other debris out of your air conditioner or forced-air heating system.
Read on as we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about this air filter.
“So, a HVAC Air Filter Doesn’t Provide Indoor Air Quality Protection?”
No, as we alluded to above, the point of the air filter that comes standard with your HVAC system isn’t actually there to protect your indoor air quality. Instead, it is in place to protect the HVAC system itself. You see, if dust, dirt, and other debris are allowed to get inside, then it can cause friction and subsequent operational problems for the equipment. This could leave you with an inefficient heating or air conditioning system, or even a system that doesn’t work at all due to accumulated and exacerbated wear and tear.
That said, this filter can get too clogged up, which is why it should be changed often. We’ll address this in the next FAQ:
“How Often Do I Need to Change This Air Filter?”
Depending on the type of air filter you have in place (we’ll get to that in a moment!) as well as the level of contaminants in your home, the air filter should be changed every 1-3 months.
Types of HVAC Air Filters
There are indoor air quality products that use filters–air filtration systems and air purifiers–and that have higher MERV rated filters than your HVAC system, but in the meantime, this is a breakdown of the types of air filters that you may have in your heater or air conditioner:
Fiberglass/Mesh: These are the basic air filters that most systems come with. They should be changed every 1-3 months, and this is something that homeowners can and should do on their own.
Pleated: Pleated air filters don’t need to be changed as often–you can typically go about 6 months between changes. It’s still a good idea, though, to check on yours from time to time.
Permanent: Permanent air filters aren’t typically found in most professionally installed residential air conditioners or heaters, but you may have one in a portable AC system. If this is the case, during periods of daily use, you should check and clean the filter every month. We recommend using a vacuum hose set to “low” to do this. You can rinse them off, but you should make sure they’re completely dry before putting them back in, to prevent mold growth and moisture exposure.