Picking out the proper furnace filter and changing it when it is dirty is as important to your HVAC system as changing the oil is to your car. Each plays a crucial function in keeping its system operating safely, efficiently and for a long time.
An overused furnace filter loses its effectiveness, enabling potentially harmful particles to circulate through your home. It also restricts airflow, which can damage your furnace and shorten its life span.
Ensuring your furnace uses a clean filter that is appropriate for your needs is not merely about keeping your furnace running efficiently. It’s also about delivering good indoor air quality for your home.
The quality of the air your family breathes is important to the heating professionals at Vogts Heating & Air. We've long worked with an eye on enhancing indoor air quality in Pocatello. Here, we’ve answered frequent questions about HVAC filters, including that particularly tricky question of what direction do you point a filter in your furnace or air conditioner?
When Should I Replace My Furnace Air Filter?
It is vital to replace dirty air filters in a furnace or air conditioner regularly. Dirt-clogged filters cause the system to worker harder than it should because it takes extra effort to pull air through the plugged-up filter.
Officials suggest checking your furnace filter monthly and replacing it if it’s dirty. You’ll know if your filter needs changing because it will be gray or black from dirt or dust. Homeowners who have pets that shed will very likely want to replace their furnace air filter more often, because an effective air filter will trap pet hair circulating in a home.
Locating Your Furnace's Air Filter
In general, a furnace air filter is usually installed in the return air duct or blower compartment before the return air reaches the furnace. This ensures air being pulled into the system is filtered before it passes through the furnace components and is heated.
Depending on the furnace brand, the filter may be found on the right, left, bottom or in some cases, inside the furnace. It's generally housed inside of a slot, frame or cabinet for simple access and replacement. Always refer to your furnace's owner manual for important information regarding filter location of your furnace.
Is a Furnace Filter the Same as an Air Filter?
The easy answer is, yes. In HVAC, a furnace filter and an air filter or air conditioning filter are effectively the same thing. While people may call them different things based on the current season— summer or winter—they are all filters that clean the air in your HVAC system.
They each eliminate dust, allergens, bacteria and other particulates from the air that is drawn into the furnace and air conditioning system, ensuring the air distributed throughout your home is clean and safe.
What Are MERV Ratings and What MERV Rating Do I Need?
Once you find your old furnace filter and decide when it should be substituted for a clean one, it’s time to select a replacement. That means deciding on the level of filtration that you need. One method to do this is by selecting an appropriate MERV rating for your needs.
MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values. The MERV rating measures the effectiveness of air filters at trapping airborne contaminants. The rating scale ranges from 1 to 20, with higher numbers indicating enhanced capabilities to filter small particles.
Experts say a filter with a MERV rating between 8 and 13 offers an ideal balance between having healthy indoor air quality without needlessly restricting airflow. However, people with specific health conditions could need to purchase a filters with a higher MERV rating.
How to Place the Air Filter in a Furnace or AC Unit
Installing an air filter in a furnace or air conditioner the proper way is necessary for the efficient operation of the system. Air filters are designed to be installed in a certain direction, indicated by an arrow located on the side of the filter frame. The filter should be put in with this arrow pointing toward the furnace or air conditioner, which is the direction of the airflow. If you're not sure about the airflow direction, try to remember that air always moves from the return duct and then to the heat or cooling source. Therefore, be sure that the arrow points in the direction of the furnace or air conditioner.
Many people are confused by which direction to install their system's air filter. To help remember, consider taking a picture with your cellular phone after the filter has been properly installed by a professional. Or, you also could ask a technician to use a marker to write on the outside of your furnace which direction the filter should point. A perfect time to ask about this is during a regular furnace maintenance visit.
How to Replace Your Furnace Air Filter
Replacing the filter on your furnace or air conditioner is an easy process. Here is a step-by-step list of how to retreive a dirty air filter and exchange it for a new one:
- Turn off your furnace: Make sure to switch off your furnace before starting the process.
- Locate the furnace filter: Typically, the filter is located in the furnace or in the air return vent. Make note of which direction the arrow points on the filter, because you’ll want the arrow on the new filter to point the same way.
- Remove the old filter: Be mindful not to knock out any dust or debris.
- Note the date: Write down the date you changed filters on the new filter's frame. This will help you keep track of when it's time for another replacement.
- Slide in new filter: Put in the new filter with the arrow pointing toward the furnace, which is the direction of airflow and should be the same direction the arrow pointed on the old filter you are replacing.
- Secure the filter: Make sure the new filter fits correctly and close any latches or clips that secure it in the compartment.
- Turn on your furnace: Once the new filter is properly in place, you can turn your furnace back on.
Will a Dirty Air Filter Cause a Furnace Not to Work?
The shortest answer is, yes, a dirty air filter can cause a furnace to cease working or limit its lifespan. Changing your furnace or air conditioning filter is one of the easiest things you can do to keep your system working efficiently.