Here’s how often you should change your air filter

Here’s how often you should change your air filter



Wondering how often you should change your air filter to ensure clean air circulation in your home? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. A rough estimate is every three months. However, the life span of your home’s air filter depends on:

  • Climate and seasonal changes 
  • Air quality in your area 
  • Pets in your home
  • Allergies of people living in your home 
  • House size 
  • Usage of your heating and cooling system

Changing the air filter is a simple practice you can do to prolong your HVAC system’s life. It also helps keep energy bills low and maintain the quality of your air conditioner.

This article will discuss the importance of changing your home air filter and determining the suitable time for a change. We also provide a step-by-step breakdown of the process.


What happens if you don’t change your home air filter?

Air filters trap dust, irritants, pet hair and other debris from the air. They operate by capturing particles and filtering airflow with the help of a porous medium. Eventually, when the amount of debris caught in this porous filter reaches high levels, it inhibits the proper functioning of the filter. Air filters are designed to last for a fixed duration, making it essential to replace them periodically.

Good indoor air quality is crucial to the health of those living in the home. Broken or old air filters cannot remove dust and debris from the air, causing a severe drop in your home’s air quality, which can have many negative effects. These include:  

  • Inflated energy bills. When the filter is clogged, your HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) system works harder to pull cool or hot air through and supply it to the rooms. This causes the system to run for a longer time and ramps up the final electricity bill you have to pay. 
  • Health concerns. Bad air circulating through your house can contain allergens that cause your allergies to act up or even give rise to serious illnesses. If someone in your home has asthma or any respiratory disease, you should ensure that only the cleanest air circulates indoors. 
  • HVAC system performance. A clogged filter can cause severe strain on the HVAC unit in the HVAC system and lead to breakage, resulting in hefty costs to repair the strained system. 

Keeping in mind the severe health and financial impact of damaged A/C filters, regularly checking and replacing them is a good practice.

How do I know if my home air filter needs changing?

Some factors you should consider while deciding whether you need an HVAC air filter change are:

  • Home size. More air circulates through a larger home. A good rule of thumb is that if you have a large home, you would require more frequent air filter changes because it will get dirtier faster. In comparison, smaller homes don’t need air filter changes as frequently due to the smaller amount of air moving through the house.  
  • Pets. Your four-legged companions can be responsible for dirt, pollen, dust, hair, mold and many other contaminants entering your home. If you have a pet in your house, your home will require frequent air filter replacements due to the hair and debris that can get lodged in it. Failing to replace the filter will lead to the circulation of harmful contaminants indoors, heightening allergic reactions and posing a greater risk to your loved ones’ health. 
  • Air quality. Your neighborhood’s air quality significantly impacts how quickly the air filter gets dirty. Pollutants like smoke, dust and debris from the city will enter your home due to a dirty air filter. Additionally, if you live in an area with a lot of construction work and air pollution, your HVAC system will be exposed to more dust, particulate matter and even gases. 

All the air circulating through your HVAC system passes through the air filter, making it a vital part of your home’s air-conditioning setup. There are some telltale signs that your filter needs to be changed. Look out for:

  • Visible dirt buildup on the air filter 
  • Increased dust in your home
  • You or your family members facing allergy symptoms 
  • A burning smell coming from the HVAC unit 
  • A hot air conditioner; as the unit works overtime to pull air through the clogged air filter, the surface of the A/C unit will be hot when you touch it. 

Generally, you should change your air filter once every three months. If you can’t remember the last time you changed it, it’s probably time to do it now.


How hard is it to change your home air filter yourself?

It’s relatively easy to inspect and change your home’s air filter yourself without the help of an electrician. Going step by step and working around the instructions will help you become a pro at changing filters — a useful skill that will help you maintain clean air in your home year-round. 

It’s a straightforward process that can be a more productive DIY task and shouldn’t take more than two hours. 


How to change a home air filter

Changing your HVAC system’s air filter is as simple as following a few steps. Before starting, locate your air filter and prepare your tools accordingly. Most importantly, you must ensure your system is switched off before you start. 

You'll want to buy a replacement when you decide to change your home air filter. Making an informed purchase decision here will save you money in the future because a good quality filter is bound to last longer. 

Look for a filter with a high MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating. This rating indicates a filter’s ability to capture large particles between 0.3 to 0.1 microns. A higher MERV rating shows a greater ability to capture minute particles. Filters with MERV ratings between 9 and 13 are ideal for your home. However, you must check the compatibility of the new filter with your HVAC system. 

Find your home air filter location(s)

The first step is to find the air filter’s location. You might have multiple air filters located throughout the system. Typically, your air filter is located in one of two places: a return duct or the air handler. The air handler can be fixed in an attic, basement or utility closet.

Determine the correct air filter size

To find the size of the filter, check the existing filter, which should ideally have the size printed on one of its sides. If the size is not visible or present, you can use a measuring tape and note down the length, width and depth. 

While buying the new filter, look for a brand that provides a sturdy and durable product. A pleated filter with a wire mesh and a high MERV rating will be an efficient purchase. Be aware that using a filter with a higher MERV rating than what is recommended by your HVAC system’s manufacturer can actually work against the air conditioner and cause more issues. Be sure to choose a MERV rating within the manufacturer's recommended range.

Remove and replace the old air filter

First, start by unscrewing or dislodging the old air filter from its position. You may have to open the access panel if your air filter is located in the system’s air handler. You will need a screwdriver to remove the small screws securing it. If your filter is in the return duct, flip the latches to undo the grille and remove it.

If your air filter is in an air duct, replace the old air filter by removing it carefully and observing how it was placed. Place the new filter inside and ensure correct placement. The airflow arrows should be pointing toward the duct.

While removing the air filter, note any problems you see, like excessive dust — which suggests you should be changing the filter more often — or gaps in the filter, indicating you need to buy a bigger size to fit the vent properly.

Clean and reinstall the filter housing

The component that holds the filter in place — an access panel or grille — needs to be cleaned thoroughly to ensure no remnants of debris or dust spoil your newly installed clean air filter. You can wipe the grille down with a microfiber cloth, or use a vacuum with a soft brush if the grille is covered in dust. 

It’s important that the new filter is housed in a clean and dust-free space to ensure a longer life.


Avoid costly heating and A/C system repairs with Cinch

As long as you are comfortable carrying out the work yourself and you don’t notice any symptoms of bad air quality, you don’t need to call a professional to change an air filter. However, having an HVAC contractor check in on your home system at least twice a year is a good idea to ensure it continues to work smoothly. 

If you have consistent air-quality concerns, it might be beneficial to have a professional come in and carry out a system check, during which they will also replace your air filters. You could also opt to work with Cinch Home Services

Cinch provides multiple warranty plans, like the Cinch Built-in Systems plan. Cinch services have options that cover all major appliances and their repairs, including HVAC systems and air filters. Make living in your home a stress-free experience; get an instant quote from Cinch today!


Not changing air filters can often cause health issues, increased energy usage or reduced air quality. Read on to know when to change your air filter.

Your home protection is ready and waiting!