Understanding The Role Of Furnace Filters

The filter in your forced-air furnace serves a crucial job in delivering warm air to the rooms in your home. Usually installed where the return duct enters your furnace, a furnace filter removes particulates from the air before it gets heated (or cooled in the case of an A/C). The furnace filter will remove a variety of particulates, including dust, dust mites, pollen, pet dander, mold spores and more. Some filters are so efficient that they can even remove viruses and bacteria, as well as smoke and fumes.

Inexpensive furnace filters provide protection for furnace components and allow your system to operate efficiently. More expensive air filters offer improved air quality, which helps in households where individuals may suffer from allergies or asthma. The catch with super-efficient furnace filters is that the same reason they can capture more and smaller particles – an elaborate filtering design – is also the reason they may impede airflow to your furnace. If a furnace has inadequate airflow, then it won't operate efficiently and may eventually break down.

Types of air filters

There are various types and grades of filters. How often homeowners should change the furnace filter depends on several factors.

  • The type of furnace filter – disposable (panel or pleated) or permanent and washable
  • Whether  there are pets in the home
  • If someone in the home has allergies or other special health requirements

Inexpensive throw-away fiberglass panel filters need to be change anywhere from every 30 to 90 days. The disposable pleated variety of filters can last three months or longer before requiring a change. Inspect your furnace filter every month, and if it looks dirty or clogged, replace or clean it.

Washable air filters are usually permanent. The homeowner will need to periodically vacuum the dust from this product and wash the filter. 

Changing filters

When replacing a furnace filter, look on the side of the old filter or refer to the owner’s manual to find the correct size for the furnace. The size typically will be given as a measurement (for example, 1 by 16 by 20 inches). The filter does not have to be from the same vendor or manufacturer as your furnace.

Homeowners should also look at the MERV (or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) of an air filter. MERV employs a numerical rating of 1 to 16 to measure the efficiency of a filter – the capability to capture small to large airborne particles. A  filter with a higher MERV provides better efficiency for stopping smaller particles than a low MERV filter. Your reliable HVAC technician can tell you the ideal filter for our particular heating system, and try to find the best balance between maintaining good air quality and proper airflow.

Contact a technician at Joe Behr Plumbing & Heating to get  more information about furnace filters or services. We proudly serve the Mid-Ohio area.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Mid-Ohio area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about furnace filters and other HVAC topics, visit our website.

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