By Bob Vila
This time of year, chances are that your forced-air furnace is in daily operation. To keep the unit running smoothly, and to avoid the hassle and expense of an emergency repair, give due attention to the furnace’s filter. The right one will protect the furnace, increase its energy efficiency and even improve your home’s indoor air quality.
The importance of a furnace filter
A forced-air furnace running without any sort of filter would send dust and dirt all throughout your house while leaving the appliance vulnerable to a host of mechanical problems.
On the other hand, a furnace with a filter that’s excessively dirty would have to work harder than necessary to do its job. Such inefficiency raises the already high cost of home heating. Not to mention, a clogged filter could lead your furnace to overheat and shut down, an event that would likely entail calling in a pro for a costly fix.
Make sure that your furnace is protected and performing at its peak by checking the filter every month during winter. If the filter is dirty, you will need to replace or clean it, depending on what type of filter it is.
Choosing a furnace filter
The most common type of furnace filter is inexpensive, disposable, 1- or 2-inch-thick fiberglass. So long as you remember to do monthly replacements, this filter type will do a good job of protecting the working parts of your furnace, but it won’t do much to aid indoor air quality.
A bit more expensive are “pleated” fabric filters, which trap a higher percentage of airborne particles. Plus (at least in theory) pleated filters will last several months. But if you own pets, live with a smoker or frequently open the windows in your home, checking the filter on a monthly basis is again recommended.
Some pleated filters carry an electrostatic charge that further boosts filtration. These run about $20 apiece, but you can easily find reusable versions that will last about five years if cleaned regularly. Suffer from allergies? Consider shelling out for a HEPA-rated antimicrobial filter.
Installing a new furnace filter
I always encourage folks to consult the owner’s manual for details on their specific model of furnace, but in general, installing a new filter is simple.
The first thing to do is switch off the unit. Then locate the service panel, remove the old filter from its housing and switch in your new filter. Take care to follow the arrows (indicated both on the filter and the furnace) and face the filter in the right direction toward the blower fan. Finally, place the panel door back into position and switch the unit back on. That’s it!
Remember that HVAC systems work hard in the summer, too — usually even harder than during the cold months. For the overall comfort and health of your home, regular year-round filter checks are very important. Bite the bullet and make them part of your monthly home maintenance routine.
Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.