Learn How to Change a Furnace Filter

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During the colder seasons, warm blankets and furnaces are our best friends. And just as you remember to wash your blanket, you should also remember to change your furnace filter. Sadly, this chore is mandatory and often overlooked by many homeowners, as the hidden filtering device is easy to forget about. Today, we’re going to show you just how easy it is to remember to buy new filters and that changing or cleaning your filters can be a hassle-free process.

Why Filters Need Changing

Air purifier filter replacement.

The short answer is: a dirty filter affects the performance and efficiency of your furnace. However, there are a lot more side-answers to this question, so let’s start off with the first reason. Your furnace works based on drawing air through its vents, air which passes through the filtering device to clean it and can also be a carrier of unwanted allergens.

When the surface of a filter is covered in dirt, the furnace can no longer pull the same quantity of air it needs, as the dirty surface blocks most of it. A clogged air filter will cause your furnace to work twice as hard to get the air it needs. This has multiple consequences. First, your energy bill rises significantly. Then, there’s a great chance of your furnace system malfunctioning, especially due to burn out or overheating.

In turn, this means that regularly changing your furnace filtering device decreases maintenance costs. If your system eventually fails, you’ll most likely have to spend a great deal of money with fixing it. When the air filter fails to do its job because the surface is too dirty, the aid ducts of your furnace become dirty as well, not to mention that your blower could also stop working. So, why not avoid wasting money with repairs and just make sure you replace your screen in due time?

Another reason why it’s important to always change your furnace filtering device in due time is that a dirty filter has a negative impact on your health. The furnace filter traps particles just as pet dander, dust and mold and prevents it from recirculating inside your house. When the screen is too dirty, it can no longer trap new contaminant, which means that whatever airborne particles or viruses are free to roam your household air will still be there until you change it for a clean one.

In turn, these contaminants can trigger respiratory problems, especially among people who suffer from asthma or allergies. Consequently, a new air screen keeps your home cleaner. That’s because it prevents dust from recirculating through the air and, we all know, nobody enjoys dusting.

Filter Removal and Installation

Senior caucasian man examining a folded dirty air filter in the HVAC furnace system in basement of home

If you’re asking, ‘But how do I know when to change it?’ or ‘can I determine how to do this myself?’ Once you have your new filter in hand, regardless of whether it’s a disposable filter or a reusable filter, you have to first remove the existing filter and clean the area where the filter goes. It’s a fairly simple procedure, no matter what type of furnace or filter you have.

  • Always turn off your furnace. You don’t want it to run or kick on while you’re switching out the filter. This is for safety purposes as well as to avoid any air intake while the filter isn’t in place.
  • If you haven’t already, locate the furnace filter compartment. This is usually somewhere between the furnace itself and the air intake. Slide the old filter out. It should come out easily, with no tools required.
  • As soon as you have the old filter out, take the time to properly dispose of it by covering it quickly in a plastic bag. The hefty amounts of debris, dirt, and contaminants it contains can easily fall off and re-enter your environment, and you also run the risk of breathing the caked on gunk indirectly. Close the bag to prevent allergens and other nasties from escaping before you continue the process.
  • Take a look at the slot where the filter was and the surrounding area. Most likely, there will be a lot of dust, dirt, and particles caked around here. Use the hose on your vacuum with the brush attachment to clean the area before putting the new filter in (or returning the cleaned and ready reusable filter).
  • With a permanent filter, if that’s what you have already, start with the vacuum, hose, and brush attachment to remove the heaviest part of the debris. Then, use water (without soap) to rinse the filter thoroughly. Once the filter is clean, you need to wait until it is completely dry before putting it back in the slot.
  • The new filter (or the permanent furnace filter you’re going to reinstall) has an arrow on it, showing which direction it should face when you put it in the slot. That arrow needs to point to the furnace side and not the air intake side. If you install the filter backward, you’ll run into fairly immediate issues with airflow and clogging, which will quickly cause your furnace’s functionality to deteriorate.
  • Once the filter is firmly in place, turn the furnace back on so you can assure that everything works properly.
  • Continue regular maintenance, checking the filter regularly and cleaning as needed between changes. This will assure you have fewer issues with your furnace and keep you informed if for whatever reason you need to replace or clean your furnace filter more frequently (this is often true if you have one or more smokers in your household).

If you’ve purchased the wrong size furnace filter, you’ll know immediately when you go to install it. Either it won’t slide in at all because there is no excess room, or there will be gaps between the filter and the top or bottom of the slot. Be sure your filter fits properly, or you’ll need to figure out the proper size and try again with a different filter.

How to Replace a Furnace Filter: Disposable

Whether you have a Goodman or a Bryant unit, the process is still pretty much the same when it’s replacement time. Changing your furnace filter is something that should always be in the back of your mind, as it’s important for both your health, as well as the lifespan of your furnace. While this is a task that a lot of people forget about, changing the filtering device of your furnace system is quite a simple process. In fact, the only difficult things could be finding ones that are of an appropriate size.

Step One

So, the first step in changing the filter is determining which kind you need. The best solution would be to pull out one of the existing screens and check its dimensions. First, you have to turn off your furnace before you can remove the filter. The location varies depending on the system, but it’s typically inside the furnace or in one of return air vents.

These filters will generally have an arrow that indicates the direction in which the air flows through it. It’s important to remember this direction in order to correctly install the new filter. You can either mark the direction directly on the furnace exterior or you can use sticky notes if you don’t want to leave any marks on the furnace.

The cardboard frame of the filter should specify the size of the current filter. To double-check, you can always read the furnace manual, as the manufacturer typically specifies the size of the needed filters. Alternatively, grab your measuring tape and get the most accurate dimensions possible.

Step Two

Once you have the right dimensions, it’s time to go filter shopping. For your best convenience, you can order new filters online, but you can also shop for filters at your local hardware store. However, online purchases bring a number of benefits to the table.

Step Three

Furnace Filters

When you have clean filters and are ready to replace your old ones, know that there aren’t any additional tools required, nor will this consume too much of your time. Check the marking to see in which direction the filter has to be installed. It’ll be marked right on the side usually as an arrow.

Step Four

The filter is then simply slid into place and the cover put back over it. It is, however, important to keep in mind the date when you change your filter, as three months from then, you’ll most likely have to change it again. Most manufacturers recommend installing a new filter once every three months. This, however, may vary from one household to another.

Note About How Often to Change:

If you have a big family, with at least two kids and two pets, the chances of your filter’s surface getting dirty in less than three months is pretty high. So, the quality of the air inside your home and the number of people/pets living there are factors that determine the replacement frequency for changing the filters. At first, we do recommend setting a reminder to check the filters once a month, to see if it’s still usable.

How to Replace a Furnace Filter: Reusable

Of course, there are people who prefer to use electrostatic washable filters instead of disposable ones. There are a lot of benefits to using these kinds of filters, like the money you save on the long haul or the waste you avoid creating, but this is not an article comparing disposable and washable filters. Let’s focus on how you can clean your washable furnace filter, in case this is the type you’re using.

Step One

on - off switches, white with 3d effect, with red and green led light, vector illustration, eps 10 with transparency

The first step is, of course, turning off your furnace. Then, find the location of the filter, as we described in the “Changing a Disposable Furnace Filter” subsection. Then, mark the direction in which the filter needs to be reinstalled. As you can see, the first steps are identical to those required when changing a disposable filter.

Step Two

Now, cleaning the filter is actually a very simple process and all the items you need are already in your household. You will first have to rinse the filter from dust and other visible contaminants. You can do so by either placing the filter in your shower/bathtub, or you can use a garden hose and do this outside. This step will remove the dirt or debris caught in the surface of the filter. Make sure you rinse both sides of the filter. Now, there are some people that would much rather use a vacuum cleaner first, which isn’t that bad of an idea. But remember to rinse the filter even after having used the vacuum.

Step Three

Next, you can use a brush dipped in warm water and some mild detergent. By scrubbing the surface of the filter gently, you can make sure you’re getting every bit of debris out of the filter’s surface. If you do use detergent, make sure you give the filter one final rinse. It’s also very important to leave the filter out to dry completely before installing it back in its slot, as the humid environment could have the apparition of mold.

Step Four

Woman replacing the filter

Simply slide it back in a place where it originally was in your furnace and secure any flaps or covers.

How Often to Change Air Filter?

It’s hard to know how often to change an air filter in the house. A furnace air filter should be changed anywhere from three to six months, depending on how often you use it. If you want sure clean air all the time, three months is ideal. If you want to be a bit more practical, every six months should do the trick. If you’re not to reuse your dirty filter, take it out, blow it out and see how you feel about the quality of the air within your home. There are many places online that will automatically send you new filters if you subscribe to a payment plan, but it’s up to you. You can find filters in home improvement stores, as stated earlier, so you may want to just check your filter and go out and purchase your own as needed.

Furnace filter maintenance

Months that see more dust, such as spring and summer, may require a new screen more often. Again, you can check the filtering device and see for yourself how dirty or clean it is after a certain amount of time and go from there. The cleaner the filter, the cleaner the air and the less likely your machine would need major repair later on. If you keep a dirty filter within a furnace, the coils and slats will become heavy with gunk and other air pollutants. You’d be surprised how much impurities these filters do catch and how many toxins are in the air. Whatever you decide to do, just remember to keep your machine clean to prevent any problems in the future.

Conclusion

Whether you own a disposable furnace filter or have installed a reusable one, maintenance is key if you want to be able to enjoy clean air and extend the lifespan of your furnace. If you use disposable filters, you might want to remember to purchase spares at all times and avoid having to use a dirty filter for too long because you keep forgetting to buy new ones. With reusable filters, clean air is just a few hose sprays away.

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