Cleaning your furnace filter is not very difficult to do, although, depending upon what kind of furnace you have, some of you may get a little dirty. Actually it is a good thing that they are easy to clean because if you live in a cold climate you should be cleaning it up once before winter and then about once a month during those cold months when the furnace is constantly working.
Keeping a clean furnace filter in your furnace is a small job that has big benefits. First it can help cut the costs of heating your home. Along with lowering your energy bill, a clean furnace filter can help you and your family breathe better. A medium grade filter will remove dirt and dust; better grade filters will remove pollen and pet dander as well. The bottom line is clean air filters save energy and money. Routinely changing or cleaning the furnace filters helps the unit run more efficiently and work for more years.
To choose the correct filter do not even think about getting the 99 cent filters at the hardware store, The filter is still clean when you go to change it because it does not catch anything. They do not work.
If no one in your home has any allergies, go with a pleated filter. It will do a good job of cleaning dust out of the air. If allergies are an issue, consider getting a media style air cleaner or an electronic air cleaner. For the more serious problems consider an ultra violet light in combination with the media air cleaner. You can find these different kinds of filters in your local hardware store.
Our handyman changes our filters. His first step is turn off the power source to the furnace. In many cases there is a switch, much like the light switch on your wall. This switch should be located on or very near to the furnace. If you cannot find the switch, locate the circuit breaker and turn it off. It is better to be safe than sorry. Since cleaning furnaces is not the way you earn a living, I advise that you also shut down the power to the furnace.
Any furnace installed today will have the filter compartment located in the return duct outside of the furnace. Older furnaces though may have the filter located inside of the blower compartment. You may need a screwdriver or some other tool to open the panel of your furnace that houses the filter. Remove and examine it. If it is a disposable filter, simply insert a new filter and put the panel back. A disposable filter usually looks like a piece of pleated paper or woven fiber glass material enclosed in a cardboard frame.
If you are one of the more green households and you have a permanent reusable filter, remove it and examine it. The permanent filters look a little like the disposable except that the filtering material is enclosed in a frame and a grid. Many permanent filters have several layers of filtering material with an anti-microbial core. Their frames are more durable, usually made of aluminum or plastic because it resists corrosion. A warning about permanent filters, because of all of the layers, the air flow is greatly restricted. High restriction leads to excessive wear on the furnace. If you have one of these filters check it monthly.
While there are a number of difference furnace filters to choose from, the HVAC industry has developed a standard for filter testing, called MERV. The higher the MERV value of the filter, the better the filtration and the cleaner your air will be.
It’s best to consult an HVAC professional before changing the filter on your furnace as used improperly, some filters can degrade the efficiency of your furnace.
Types of filters include:
HEPA: High Efficiency Particulate Air filters, better known as HEPA, have small corrugated separators that increase the strength of the filter. They are able to remove tiny, invisible particles known as “sub-micron” particles and can significantly improve air quality. While they are excellent at improving air quality, HEPA filters won’t fit all furnaces.
Electrostatic: These filters are charged with static electricity that attract small, electrically-charged particles, such as dirt or allergens. They are an efficient way to improve air quality and filters are often washable.
Pleated: These filters have folds, or pleats, that increase its surface area, allowing the filter to grab more particles from the air. The design of the filter means most particles become trapped on the surface of the filter, rather than inside. While this makes the filter more efficient, it also means it must be replaced more often. One of the benefits to pleated filters is that they are easy to replace and can fit most furnaces.
Activated Carbon: These filters use a form of charcoal that has been processed to make it porous, allowing it to trap small particles from the air and hold them between carbon atoms. Activated Carbon filters are best used in homes that have high levels of chemicals, such as tobacco smoke or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and are particularly efficient at removing odors and allergens.