The Importance of Changing Your Furnace Filter

Your furnace is a highly efficient forced air heating appliance with a filter that homeowners are smart to keep an eye on. The filter is an important component, whether your furnace is fueled by electricity, gas, or propane. Heated air passes through the filter first. Then the warm air is pushed through the furnace blower fans and your ductwork then out through vents. It’s important to change your furnace filter without delay, once it’s needed. Nothing good can come of failing to change the furnace filter but there are plenty of potentially bad outcomes.

What Happens if My Clogged Furnace Filter Is Not Changed?

A dirty furnace filter can wreak all kinds of havoc because furnace systems are designed to work with the help of a good filter. The following are problems that can be avoided by changing your furnace filter once it’s dirty, clogged, and air can no longer get through it:

An Unwanted Chain Reaction

For your furnace to operate properly, a certain amount of airflow is needed to blow across the coil or heat exchanger. The airflow is minimized when the filter is clogged by a thick layer of dirt and debris. As a result of the coil or heat exchanger not getting enough air, the blower is activated to work much harder than it would with a good furnace filter. The harder the blower works, the higher your heating bill will be.

When there isn’t the needed air getting to the furnace because air can’t get through the filter, the heat becomes trapped in the furnace system. As the temperature inside the system continues to rise, a “limit switch” should be activated, and it will shut the furnace off to prevent overheating. If the furnace filter is not changed but the furnace is later switched back on, it will eventually cut off again, which is known as “short cycling.” The lifespan of your furnace could decrease by several years due to short cycling.

If the furnace filter isn’t changed, the output of heat will continue to drop as wear and tear on the furnace continues to significantly increase. The heat exchanger could crack or warp. Damage to the heat exchanger could result in a fire or a dangerous carbon monoxide leak.

Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution is one of the top five worst environmental health risks, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s not unusual for the air we breathe in our homes to be polluted up to five times as much as outdoor air. When there’s a dirty filter on the furnace, you and your family are exposed to a greater volume of dust, dander, and possibly mold as it continues to circulate through your home. Breathing in these things can worsen the symptoms of allergies and asthma. When the furnace filter is clean, it can trap contaminants, which helps your family breathe easier.

Higher Costs

If you care about reducing utility costs, the last thing you want to do is fail to change your furnace filter regularly. The lack of a good filter causes energy costs to go up as the furnace system works harder than ever while sending less heat through the vents. The situation causes your carbon footprint to increase and your bank balance to decrease from paying higher utility bills.

Not changing your furnace filter can lead to total system failure. But before that happens, it can also result in higher maintenance costs. The blower may stop working, and it will need to be fixed or replaced. All the pollutants circulating in your home may also lead to a need for ductwork cleaning.

Where is my Furnace Filter Located?

Your furnace filter may have been installed in a built-in furnace rack, usually located in the blower compartment. In some cases, however, the filter is located in a return air duct or a return air grille mounted on a wall. The truth is that, even among HVAC professionals, it can be a tricky business to locate the furnace filter. One thing is certain! There should be definitely a furnace filter somewhere and it needs changing from time to time.

Although simply finding your furnace filter may sound intimidating, the good news is that changing a furnace filter is very, very simple and quick.

Signs that my Furnace Filter Needs to be Changed

Some homeowners change their furnace filter at set intervals. For instance, some recommend that a one-inch furnace filter should be changed monthly. How often your furnace filter needs changing really depends on the demand placed on your furnace and the size of your home. You could check your filter monthly during winter to see if it’s clogged. At the very least, change your furnace filter every three months for all the benefits it provides.

The following are signs that you need to change your furnace filter:

  • Your heating costs continue to go higher. You could potentially cut energy costs by 15% with a new furnace filter.
  • Your heater runs longer but provides less heat.
  • Family members’ respiratory problems are worsened.
  • You notice that your home gets dustier than it did previously.
  • You detect a burning smell but can’t tell for sure where it’s coming from. It could be caused by overheating of the blower motor.

What if my Furnace Doesn’t Have a Filter?

You could discover that the furnace filter is gone or perhaps was never installed in the first place. The total lack of a filter causes an entirely different set of problems, in addition to the issues related to using a dirty filter. In the absence of a furnace filter, inner mechanisms of your HVAC system are at even greater risk for damage. Your heating system will wear down much more quickly without a filter.

Stay Warm and Save Money

Once you know where your furnace filter is located, it’s such an easy thing to replace it regularly. There are a few things you can do in your home that have more cost-cutting consequences than changing your furnace filter. Are there better things you can do with your money than repair or replace your furnace?