According to ENERGY STAR, you should be checking and changing your furnace’s air filter every month during peak heating season. That’s probably more often than you need to be calling in your trusty HVAC service guy. We love to see you, of course, but this is a job that you can probably handle on your own if you choose to do so.
If you plan to stay on top of this important furnace maintenance task yourself, let your service guy know when he comes to do your fall furnace maintenance before you start up your furnace for the heating season. He can make sure you have plenty of the right filters on hand, and can show you or your maintenance crew the steps to properly insert and remove the air filter.
Here are the simple steps to help you get it done.
Furnace maintenance: steps to change your furnace filter
Step 1: Find and remove your furnace filter.
The air filter is typically located in or near the blower system. This is usually in the front of the furnace near the bottom. You may be able to see and access the filter without opening anything, or you might have to open a metal panel (marked FILTER) on the front or the top of the blower. The panel may be attached with hooks or screws.
Once you have access to the filter, simply slide it out of the slot that holds it in place.
Step 2: Inspect the filter’s condition.
Once you’ve taken out the filter, check the condition. Does it look clogged with dirt and dust? If you hold it up to the light, you probably can’t see much light coming through. This filter needs to be replaced or cleaned, depending on the type of filter you are using. Even if it’s been in use less than the time recommended by the manufacturer, replace it anyway. Many factors can impact how fast your filters get clogged.
Step 3: Grab a new furnace filter, or clean a reusable filter.
Are you using disposable filters or reusable ones? A disposable filter typically has a cardboard frame and a paper or fiber mesh surface. A permanent, reusable filter is made of a more sturdy material with a metal frame and a special coating to make it washable.
If you’re replacing the filter, make sure you have the right size replacement by checking the size, which is usually printed on the frame. Also, check the MERV rating (a value from 1 through 12), which measures the size of particles the filter can trap and keep out of your furnace and the air in your building. A higher number means it traps smaller particles like viruses and pollen.
If you’re cleaning a reusable one, check the manufacturer’s instructions for washing. You’ll probably just need to rinse with water and let dry completely. Or in some cases, you can just vacuum away the dust.
Step 4: Insert the new (or cleaned) furnace filter.
Armed with your new or cleaned up filter, you just need to put it back in the right way. An arrow on the filter’s frame shows you the direction that air should flow through the filter, which is always away from the return air duct and toward the blower mechanism. When you insert the filter back in the housing, make sure that arrow points away from the return and toward the blower.
If necessary, replace that metal panel on the blower unit.
That’s it! See how easy that was? Now set a reminder on your calendar or your cell phone so you remember to check it again at the same time next month and stay on top of basic fall furnace maintenance.