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Types of HVAC System Air Filters—And How Often to Change Them


If we could only give only one piece of advice for taking care of your air conditioner during the summer—after you’ve had its routine maintenance visit (you’ve scheduled that with us already, right?)—it would be: regularly change the HVAC system’s air filter. This filter traps the dust and debris that flow through the return air ducts and prevents them from harming the internal components. It serves to protect both the air conditioner and the furnace. But when the buildup of lint and dust and other particles becomes thick enough, the clogged filter will throttle the AC’s airflow and seriously affect its energy efficiency. It may even lead to problems with iced-over coils and damaged parts.

Different filters have different schedules for changing

Answering the question of how often you need to change the HVAC filter varies depending on the filter type. Below are some of the different kinds of filters and how frequently you need to change them:

  • Permanent filters: Obviously, you don’t change a permanent filter. Instead you clean it, which you should do every 2 months. However, we don’t recommend using permanent filters in the first place, since they’re less effective than other types of filters, and they often start to develop mold and bacteria, leading to foul smells in your house and a drop in indoor air quality.
  • Panel filters: These are simple filters that can do an effective job—and they’re pretty cheap, too. Go to a hardware store and you’ll find them bundled in packs where you end up paying about a buck a piece for them. However, these filters need frequent changes: about once a month.
  • Pleated filters: Made from a polyester weave, these filters are more efficient at straining out unwanted particles, but they do cost more. They need to be changed out the least often, every 3 to 6 months. But make sure you aren’t putting in a filter with too high a MERV rating (such as 12 or above) or you’ll end up placing too much strain on the AC’s airflow.

Raleigh Heating & Air, Inc. serves Clayton, NC and Wake County and the surrounding areas.

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