Why Are HVAC Air Filters Important?

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When it comes to understanding the various parts of your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, it can seem overwhelming. From the different types of HVAC dampers and louvers to access doors and roof curbs, having a basic understanding of how your heating and cooling system works will help keep you comfortable, save you money, and keep the air you breathe cleaner and fresher. One of the most often overlooked parts of your HVAC system: the air filter.


– What is an air filter?

– Types of HVAC system air filters

– Why are air filters important?

– What happens when your HVAC system air filter is dirty?

– How to keep your HVAC damper and air filter clean


What Is an Air Filter?

Changing the air filter in your HVAC system every month may seem like a hassle, but this crucial step is one of the most important things you will do to keep your HVAC system running smoothly. As the name implies, an air filter is a layer of material that helps filter the air that passes through your HVAC damper and air ducts.


Filters are typically made with fiberglass, paper, or cloth with a cardboard frame. The filter is installed into your HVAC system and helps maintain the indoor air quality and improve efficiency.


Type of HVAC System Air Filters

There are multiple types of air filters, and the style that will work best for your HVAC system depends on several things. There are five main types of air filters, and each offers different benefits and price points.


– Flat-panel: If you’re looking for a basic air filter, a flat panel style is your best bet. This type of HVAC system air filter is usually the most affordable but often doesn’t filter as many particles as higher quality filters. Flat-panel air filters are made with fibers stretched over a cardboard frame. The fibers are usually fiberglass, and the filter is easy to install and disposable.


– Pleated: A pleated air filter is a step above flat panel filters in terms of quality. Pleated filters use plastic or cotton fibers to remove unwanted debris from the air and are pleated to help increase the surface area, which increases the quality of filtration. These filters are also disposable and easy to install but are slightly more expensive than flat panel filters because of the increase in quality.


– Electrostatic: For buildings that see an increase in smoke, pollen, or bacteria, electrostatic air filters can be a good choice for maintaining the air quality. The filters feature electrostatically charged fibers that trap smaller particles in the air. Electrostatic air filters can be pleated or flat and are also available in washable or disposable styles. 


– Washable: Choosing a washable HVAC system air filter is a great way to be more environmentally friendly, but that doesn’t mean that the filter has an unlimited lifespan. Washable filters are available in pleated or flat panel options and can be cleaned with water or vacuumed to remove buildup. If you choose a washable electrostatically charged filter, be aware that the filters will lose effectiveness over time. Although these are the best option for environmentally friendly air filters, they typically only last a few years.


– High-efficiency particulate air filter: Also known as a HEPA filter, these filters remove 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns or larger. These filters are an excellent choice for anywhere that requires the highest quality air, such as hospitals or anywhere that employs people who suffer from frustrating allergies or have compromised immune systems. Although these are excellent filters for clean air, not every HVAC system can accommodate a HEPA filter, so be sure to check with an HVAC professional before installing this filter in your HVAC system.


Why Are Air Filters Important?

If you want the cleanest air possible, changing your air filter regularly is essential. Keeping your air filter clean helps prevent pollutants from contaminating the air you breathe, keeping you happier and healthier.


Indoor air quality is impacted by two types of pollutants: gasses and particles. Gaseous pollutants are created from paints, adhesives, furnishings, cleaning products, gas stoves, smoke, and more, while particles come from dust mites, pollen, mold, viruses and bacteria, and pet dander. Keeping your filter clean helps keep these contaminants out of the air you breathe.


However, air filters do more than keep your air clean. The fibers in a filter help prevent larger particles from entering your HVAC system, which can help decrease your risk of damage, especially from a fire. Keeping your HVAC damper and system components clean helps keep your unit running longer and more efficiently. A dirty HVAC system can increase the cost of repairs and cause your system to need replacing sooner than it otherwise would.


What Happens When Your HVAC System Air Filter Is Dirty?

Keeping your HVAC air filter clean is essential. If you don’t change your filter regularly, you’re exposing yourself to dangerous particles, dust, and contaminants in the air that aren’t filtered out correctly. A dirty air filter means a reduction in air quality, higher utility costs, an increased potential for system failure, and problems keeping the temperature comfortable.


Clogged or dirty filters prevent contaminants from being filtered out, which can significantly impact the quality of the air you breathe. Forgetting to change your HVAC filter can also increase your utility costs by making the fan in your system work harder than necessary. This means higher costs and an increased likelihood of damage to your HVAC unit, resulting in the need for repairs or even a total unit replacement.


How to Keep Your Air Filter Clean

The majority of people don’t intentionally ignore their HVAC filters. However, remembering to change your filter is as easy as scheduling automatic deliveries with a filter company. Having a new filter delivered automatically helps remind you to change your filter and provides you with a quality replacement every time you need one.


Another crucial step in keeping your HVAC damper components working properly is scheduling preventative maintenance for your unit. Experts recommend having your HVAC unit serviced at least twice each year: when you change from using heat to air conditioning and then from air conditioning to heat. With a bit of forethought, keeping your HVAC unit clean and running smoothly is easier than ever when you understand the importance of your HVAC damper filters.