To keep the cost of replacing a broken furnace from becoming a hot topic in your house, you need to focus on furnace maintenance. Furnace filters are right up there at the top of the list! Here’s why you need to change your furnace filter regularly:

  • Clean filters allow your furnace to run more efficiently for better performance with reduced energy costs.
  • Clean filters allow the air in your home to stay cleaner.
  • Clean filters help you to keep mold spores and bacteria out of the air in your home.
  • Clean filters help you to avoid issues with soot in your home.
  • Clean filters can help to preserve the life of your furnace.
  • Clean filters can help you to avoid costly furnace repairs.

While it’s clear that changing furnace filters is important, you may feel like nobody ever told you exactly how often to carry out this very important task when you purchased or inherited your current furnace. You may also be wondering if you can skip changing your filter to save a little money. Rest assured that the cost of a new filter is nothing compared to the savings you’ll get from keeping your furnace safe, maintained and efficient with help from consistent filter changes. Filters are very easy to purchase because they are sold at big-box stores, hardware stores and online retailers.

There are some general rules to follow when determining how long you can get a filter to last at your home to maximize cost benefits from all angles. The short answer is that furnace filters need to be changed anywhere from every 30 days to once a year. Let’s cover the basics of how frequently your furnace needs a fresh filter!

How Often Do I Need to Replace My Furnace Filter?

There’s no “universal” answer for how often to change your furnace filter. The reason why is because every home is unique on several fronts. First, your usage won’t be the same as your neighbor’s usage. Things like your temperature preferences, how frequently you adjust the temperature, the size of your home and the age of your home can all impact how quickly your filter gets used up. Keep in mind that a furnace filter is really an air filter. That means that the amounts of things like dust, dirt and allergens floating around your home will also impact how often you need to change your furnace filter. Let’s cover some of the factors that impact filter lifespan:

  • Do you have a pet? Having a cat or dog can make it necessary to switch out your furnace filter more often simply because pet hair that’s floating around the air in your home will clog the filter much faster. If you have multiple pets, you’ll need to change the filter more often than you would with only one pet.
  • Do you smoke? If you smoke tobacco products in your home, your filter is also “smoking” right along with you. As a result, your filter will wear out much faster.
  • Do you open your windows a lot? While there’s nothing better than letting some fresh in the house, your love of open windows will wear down your furnace filter much faster. That’s because all of the particles and dander floating around outside are able to enter your home. As a result, your filter is working overtime to filter both indoor air and outdoor air.
  • Do you go long periods of time without dusting? If you’re not consistent with dusting, all of the dust that accumulates in your home will build up in your filter. Even having storage areas in your home where dust tends to build up will make it necessary to replace your filter more often.
  • Does anyone in your home have allergies or asthma? You might want to change filters more frequently if you need pristine air quality in your home because a family member suffers from respiratory issues.

Basing your filter usage on the standard home, you’ll need to replace your filter every one to three months if you have a 1-inch or 2-inch filter. If you have a 3-inch to 4-inch filter, you can go six to nine months. If you opt for a 5-inch to 6-inch filter, you can often go a full year without replacing your filter. It’s important to do an assessment of your “home habits” to determine if you’ll need to change your furnace filter more frequently than the “normal” recommendations. In most cases, homes with pets or smokers will need to replace thinner filters monthly.

What Happens If I Don’t Change My Furnace Filter?

Your filter will eventually become clogged if it’s not changed. In truth, it may be a while before you “notice” anything is going wrong with a clogged filter. However, it’s only a matter of time before the telltale signs of reduced air circulation pop up. Here are the first signs that your filter is clogged:

  • While you hear your furnace working, you don’t “feel” it working as noticeably as you once did.
  • Less air comes through your vents.
  • Your home doesn’t feel as warm as it should.
  • Your energy bills are rising even though your usage hasn’t changed.

It’s usually only a matter of time before some component of your furnace breaks down after that. One of the most dangerous risks associated with ignoring your furnace filter is a cracked heat exchanger that leaks deadly carbon monoxide. Unlike other furnace issues, this one cannot be repaired because it’s simply too dangerous.

Determining How Frequently You Should Change Your Furnace Filter

You’ll need to change your filter somewhere between once a month and once a year. Factors like the filter size you choose, the efficiency of your furnace and your household habits will determine your actual filter schedule. While it can be difficult for the average homeowner to properly assess how frequently to change filters, it’s very easy to bring in a furnace tech to evaluate your home to give you a more concrete answer. In fact, getting on a regular schedule with having a professional handle filter changes for you can be a great way to ensure that your furnace is being looked at regularly.

For home safety, the EPA recommends bringing in an HVAC professional to check that your filter is properly placed. In addition, the EPA recommends considering upgrading to the highest-rated filter for efficiency that your system can accommodate. Of course, changing your own filter is a fairly easy task if you’re up for it! The key is to get your hands on your product manual to ensure that you’re following all of the recommended steps while using the correct filters. Here’s a quick rundown of how to change a filter on most furnaces:

  • Purchase a filter based on the guidance provided in the manual for your furnace.
  • Put gloves on.
  • Turn off your furnace.
  • Locate your furnace’s service panel.
  • Remove the service panel.
  • Remove the existing filter. As a tip, remember that filters are located near your furnace’s blower fan.
  • Place in your new filter.
  • Responsibly dispose of the used filter.
  • Turn your furnace on again.

It’s also a good idea to keep a log of when you changed your filter. Logs are helpful if you ever need to call in a service tech because they will have a piece of the puzzle to work with when diagnosing the issue. You can even consider adding dates for future filter changes to your digital calendar to get reminders when it’s time! Ultimately, you can enjoy cost savings just by keeping your filter fresh because your furnace or HVAC system will be able to run at its highest efficiency rate possible!