How to Change Your Air Conditioner and Furnace Filters

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a person holding a new cabin filter

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Indoor air quality has a huge impact on your respiratory health. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for indoor air pollution to exceed the contamination levels of the outdoors, even with cars and factories pumping exhaust and fumes into the air. That’s because indoor spaces lack the natural filters of the outdoor environment, making it easier for pollution to pile up and worsen the quality of the air.

This air pollution risk only magnifies the importance of maintaining your home’s air filters. Most furnaces and air conditioners are outfitted with filters that strain dust, dirt and other debris from the air as the air is circulated through the equipment. But what some homeowners fail to realize is that these filters wear down over time as they fill up with this debris. Most filters have a lifespan ranging between one and three months, and the older they get, the less effective they become at cleaning recirculated air.

Consequently, it’s very important that air conditioner and furnace filters are changed regularly. If that task intimidates you, you’ll be pleased to know that changing an air filter is actually a very simple process that should take no more than a few minutes.

Prepping for the install

First off, check your air filter regularly. When it starts to accumulate a fuzzy coat of gray dust and sediments, it’s time to replace the filter — even if it hasn’t reached its expiration date.

Before you get to work on the furnace or air conditioner itself, read the user’s manual to familiarize yourself with the process, including what tools you might need. You also need to check the specifications to see what size of filter is needed. If you are unsure of what kind to purchase, you can always use the old filter as a reference.

Once you get the new air filter, you can start the actual replacement process.

Switching out filters

Locate and remove the air filter from its holder. On a furnace, this will be between the air intake and the main body of the furnace — debris is filtered out before the air enters the actual furnace. On an air conditioner the filter will likely be directly behind the front cover and in front of the air intake. The air filter should be able to be pulled out by hand. Go ahead and set the filter aside to be disposed of later.

Meanwhile, remove the new filter from its wrapping and locate the directional arrow on the filter. Air filters need to be installed in a certain way so that they can clean the air effectively. You should see an arrow on the top of the filter — make sure the arrow is pointed away from you when you slip it into the filter holder.

Once the filter has been set into the furnace or air conditioner, you’re done — it’s as simple as that.

After you’ve installed the filter, your biggest concern should be checking on it regularly to make sure it is accumulating debris and is changed periodically. Be mindful of the filter’s expiration date, but don’t be afraid to change the filter early if it seems excessively dirty. Filters come at such a low cost, and have such a big impact on your home’s health, that it doesn’t make sense to stick with an older, dirty filter just to save a few bucks.

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    Greener Ideal strives to help you live your life in more sustainable ways with green living tips, healthy recipes and commentary on the latest environment news. The views expressed by guest authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.

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