Your home’s indoor air system works hard year-round to maintain the ideal temperature, through scorching summer heat and chilling winter weather. It also manages internal air quality, ensuring you’re breathing in the best possible air, affecting your home’s cleanliness and even your health.
Your heating, cooling, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system can account for half of your home energy use. One of the most overlooked parts of this system is the air filter.
What is an air filter?
The humble air filter is your home’s defense against the smallest particulates and large repair bills. It’s a device made of a fibrous material, encased in a cardboard box, which removes small pollutants like mold, spores, dust, hair, pet fur, lint, bacteria and pollen. Some filters are equipped with an absorbent element, like carbon, to filter out gases and odors.
This small component plays a big role in your HVAC system’s efficiency. When air is circulated through the system, it is filtered through the device, where the various particulates are caught in the fibers. Replacing the air filter regularly helps the air system to run efficiently, which keeps your monthly energy bills just as comfortable as your home’s temperature.
Air filter efficiency
Speaking of efficiency, air filters have a minimum efficiency reporting value, also called a MERV rating. The scale ranges from one to 16, and the higher the number the better the efficiency. As the scale goes up, so does pricing. A filter with a rating of one may cost $30 - $40, whereas one with a rating of 16 can cost upwards of $120 or more.
Often times, in an effort to save a little cash, homeowners will pick up a low-cost air filter. After all, who doesn’t want to save money? But those cost savings on the front end can be felt later in your energy bill. Remember all the air in your home is pushed through the filters, which means they fill quickly with dust, debris and bacteria. The air system has to push harder, using more energy, which leads to increased energy bills.
How often should you change the air filter?
Many HVAC issues can be attributed to a dirty filter. Poor airflow leads to poor air quality, limited efficiency and even much larger system failures. Air filters should be checked monthly to assess their condition. But the following factors can give you a better indication of when a filter should be changed.