You might use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and keep a few houseplants around to clean the air, but when was the last time you changed your furnace filter, or even thought about it? And yet, this is a genuinely important task, both for the health of your family and the health of your heater. Let’s discuss some of the ugly problems that raise their head when you ignore this simple home maintenance task.
Making your heater suck air through a dirty filter is like eating dinner through a ski mask– it’s a lot of extra work for no good reason. While you might not have thought of a furnace filter that way before, the truth is that a dirty filter puts a lot of extra strain on your heater’s motor, making it more prone to burn out. In fact, a burned out motor is the single most common heater repair. If you’ve got an older system, you’re greatly increasing the likelihood of having to replace the whole unit.
You know what happens when you don’t empty your vacuum often enough, don’t you? All that dirt and pet hair starts to back up into other parts of the machine, like the hose attachment. That can happen to your HVAC system, too. If you want a short course in all the ways your heater can break, just let dirt accumulate and clog your furnace filter.
Now, you might have already figured this out as you read, but just in case you didn’t: if your heater is doing more work, it’s also using more energy. That’s a big problem, because your HVAC system is responsible for approximately half of your monthly energy bill. The last thing you want to do is amp that number up! Replacing your filter every three months can reduce your energy consumption by 15%, saving the average household about $8.25 a month. The savings will more than pay for the three month life of the filter, and your diligence will also reduce your heating repairs.
Obviously, these savings are good for your peace of mind. But they’re good for your physical health, too. A filter’s job is to trap obstructions that could build up in your heater over time, such as pollen, dander, and dirt. Once that filter’s too filthy to be effective, all the allergens and the germs that breed in it get recirculated through your HVAC system over and over. The cumulative effect on your health is nothing to sneeze at. Over time, your irritated respiratory system becomes more susceptible to illness. If you or someone in your family has asthma, or is elderly and at higher risk for respiratory ailments, they’ll have an even rougher time.
Changing a furnace filter is a five minute task, even if you’re not sure what or where it is. One YouTube video, and you’ll be good to go. If you haven’t checked your filter in a while, there’s no time like the present!