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How Often Do You Need To Change Furnace Filter

When the winter gets closer, and furnaces start working full speed, we get a lot of phone calls from people wondering why their house smells musty. Our first suggestion is always to check if they need furnace repair in Toronto and if the furnace filter works well in particular. In 99% of the cases, these filters are caked with dust and gunk. Replacing it (or cleaning it if it’s permanent) is easy, and the air gets much fresher and cleaner.

Keeping your furnace in top shape is necessary if you want it to work at the top of its efficiency, save you money on energy bills, and allow you to breathe clean, fresh air in your house. People are rarely aware of the furnace filter replacement frequency and find themselves asking, “How do I know if I need to change my furnace filter?” or “What happens if you don’t change your furnace filter?”. 

Here are a few tips to help you get on top of the filter-changing situation and enjoy a warm winter with your furnace running smoothly. 

#1 Know Your Filter Type

Knowledge is power. Not all filters are the same, and not every furnace has the same filter. So, you don’t necessarily need to listen to your neighbour who changed their filter in the standard 90 days life period. Nor should you listen to them if they change it too frequently. Know your furnace’s filter and act accordingly. 

Make sure you are on top of the following info:

  • Knowing your furnace and your filter will help you get ahead in the furnace game. First of all, know the type of filter your furnace needs. Look at the furnace’s manual; the furnace manufacturer usually specifies what type of filter they need and what MERV rating is required. 
  • Knowing the MERV rating means knowing the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value of your filter. In lay terms, this means that some filters (lower MERV) have larger holes that allow dust to go into your furnace, and some others (higher MERV) have smaller holes that do a much better job at keeping dust and lint out of your furnace’s internal components. However, this means that they can get clogged much faster, so they may need changing sooner than 3 months.
    Residential furnaces should be using MERV ratings of 6 to 12  for best performance and maintenance. 
  • Knowing your filter type will certainly help in knowing the furnace filter replacement frequency. Filters come in two types: flat and pleated. Flat filters may need cleaning or replacement faster than pleated ones because they have a smaller filter area. Pleated filters have more room to gather dust, lint, and other air particles, so they require fewer changes- the standard 90-day replacement frequency is enough. 

#2 How To Tell If Furnace Filter Needs Changing?

Filters do a really dirty job in your furnace- but a very important one! They help keep out dust, hair, and small particles of any sort so that they don’t get into the internal components of your furnace and possibly damage it. At the very least, even if your furnace is not damaged, it will certainly not work as efficiently as it would have if the filters were clean, and you will not be enjoying a nice, warm house. 

As a rule of thumb, you should change your filter at least once every 3 months. This also includes filter cleaning in case your furnace uses a permanent filter. However, depending on your filter, you may need to do that more often; check the filter manufacturer’s recommendations. Keep in mind that some filter types may need changing faster than 90 days. 

#3 Do Furnace Filters Really Last 3 Months?

Checking your furnace filter once a month is a general guideline we give to all our customers. Although the filter should be replaced in the 3-month life period, it may require replacement before that depending on several factors. These include: 

  • Number of people living in the house 
  • Pets 
  • Smoking habits 
  • Allergies 
  • Weather conditions 
  • Type of filter 

If you have any doubts, it is always better to check and change the filter if necessary rather than wait the full 3 months. This way you can be sure that your furnace is running as efficiently as possible and you are not damaging it in any way. 

If you have any questions about your furnace or its filter, give us a call, and we will be happy to help you out!

Pro Tip: Don’t think that the filter won’t need to change during the months that the furnace is not working. Dust can accumulate in the filter and get sucked through the HVAC system finding its way to your system’s inner parts. This will impact both output and performance. 

Take a look at why you may be required to change your furnace filter sooner than the 3 months.

#4 How Do I Know If I Need To Change My Furnace Filter?

Sometimes filters need changing before the 3-month period we suggest as a general guideline. This is due to several factors. Here are the most important ones:

  • The filter gets dusty: As mentioned before, the furnace filter does the filthy job of keeping dust out of your furnace’s internal components. Gathering too much dust, though will certainly clog your filter. This may happen because you are doing work at the house that generates a lot of dust (e.g. house renovations), the indoor air may be dusty generally, or you may be doing housecleaning chores regularly, which can generate a generous amount of dust and lint. 

In any case, checking your furnace filter once a month will keep you updated about the furnace filter replacement frequency. If it is covered in dust and gunk, you need to change it. 

  • The filter gets hairy: Hair is another major issue for a furnace filter. Of course, we all shed hair…but so do pets. Keeping pets at home that shed hair and dander may be the reason why you need to check your furnace filter more regularly, and it may also be the determining factor for changing it sooner than the 3 months. We recommend once a month, particularly if it’s hair shedding season!
  • The filter gets unhealthy: A lot of people suffer from allergies and asthma and need clean, fresh air constantly so that they do not experience any breathing difficulties. Even if the filter doesn’t need changing necessarily, we always suggest changing it a bit sooner than the 3 months when there are health issues in the house. 

We also suggest using filters with a higher MERV rating if the furnace owner deems it possible if there are health issues. The best you can use for such purposes are HEPA filters (High-Efficiency Particulate Air), which also trap microorganisms like bacteria, yeast, fungi, mildew, etc. Investing in such a filter is probably the best thing to do vis-a-vis filtration when there are health requirements in the house. 

  • The filter gets tired: Filters do a filthy job and a heavy one too. The Canadian winter requires the furnace to work full-time to keep the house cozy and warm. In turn, the filter works overtime as well, but this work overload may result in adapting your furnace filter replacement frequency to sooner than 90 days. 

Also, your filter will need frequent changes if:

  • People smoke in the house. 
  • You open doors and windows regularly.
  • The system fan works too much. 
  • There is more dust than usual in the house (a good dust indicator is books- they pile up dust daily, so if it gets more than usual, you will know where it comes from).

So, in the question “How many times a year should you change your furnace filter?”, the short answer is at least 4. If the conditions are good enough and your furnace is not working overtime, once every 3 months suffices. If, however, there are factors that impact your filter’s job, then you need to get on top of that sooner.

#5 Can I Change The Filter On My Own?

It’s not too much work changing the furnace filter alone, but it’s always best to trust the pros to avoid more expensive mistakes down the road. Naturally, if you don’t feel like you can do it, you can ask an HVAC technician to do it for you. Here are a few tips on how to do it on your own:

  1. Switch off the furnace. Always!
  2. The filter is located in the return air vent. Locate it, see how it is positioned (so that you know how to replace it afterward), and then take it out. 
  3. If your filter is disposable, just put in a new one in the same way as the one you took out. Typically, the filters have small indicators that show how to insert them. 
  4. If your filter is permanent (it will have a plastic frame), it needs cleaning. You can do that by vacuuming debris and residue and then wiping it with a damp cloth. Make sure the filter is dry before you put it back. 

Ready To Optimize The Performance Of Your Furnace?

We always try to give our clients honest advice to maintain their furnace on their own, like changing the furnace filter. It is a simple process, which, however, can prolong our furnace’s life span since it will not need to work overtime to heat up the house, and you will be enjoying fresher air. We try to answer questions like “What happens if you don’t change the furnace filter” or “how do I know if I need to change my furnace filter,” but in truth, it is a simple thing that will optimize the furnace’s performance.  

Our HVAC contractors at Air Makers are here for you whenever you need us to do those checks for you or whenever you have any questions regarding the operation of your furnace. We can recommend which is the best filter to use for your furnace and explain all possible choices you have. Knowing what you are buying is key for us, and we respect our client’s decisions as long as we first inform them of all possible options.  

Get In Touch With Our Team Today

Air Makers Heating and Cooling is a family business with over 40 years in the industry. We are proud of our A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and our 5-star Google Reviews. We are Toronto’s HVAC Contractors of Choice and your one-stop shop for Trusted Heating and Cooling services in the GTA, with the most number of HVAC manufacturer Awards won. Don’t hesitate to contact us; together, we can see how you can optimize your furnace’s performance by keeping dirty air out of your house once and for all.  

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