Which Furnace Filter Should I Use? Common HVAC Questions and Answers
When I was a kid, I used to hate shopping for clothes. There wasn’t a day growing up where I wouldn’t have preferred to be playing outside or, when I got a few years older, to be tinkering with the cars and engines in my dad’s garage over pretty much anything else, but especially over shopping. I also just could never find clothes that I liked, and the ones I did like never seemed to fit me right. Wearing clothes that are too big or too small is never fun—and that hasn’t changed as I’ve gotten older, either. Comfort is still king for me.
This all reminds me of a situation that a lot of homeowners regularly face: Which furnace filter should I use for my HVAC system? Just like with picking out new clothes, picking out the wrong size furnace filter for your home can lead to being super uncomfortable and, even worse, it can also cause your heating bills to rise. You wouldn’t wear clothes that don’t fit you well and you shouldn’t settle for a furnace filter that isn’t a perfect fit for your home and your HVAC system either.
The furnace filter is the MVP of your HVAC system, especially in a Mediterranean climate like Sacramento’s where the hot and dry summers and wet and cool winters have us running our HVAC units most months out of the year. That’s why today I’d like to answer that big question every homeowner should be asking: Which furnace filter should I use? Plus, we’ll go into a couple of other common questions related to filters and heating and cooling service for your home. Getting this right is so important for your comfort, for the quality of the air in your house, for the energy efficiency of your furnace and AC, and for keeping your HVAC in safe, working order. And since having the right filter can also affect your heating costs, your wallet will be a lot more comfortable as well if you take time out of your day to learn more about furnace filters and their fits.
Common HVAC Question No. 1: Which Furnace Filter Should I Use?
The simple answer to which furnace filter you should use is that, for the vast majority of Northern California homes, a MERV rating between 8 and 11 is what you’ll want to aim for. This, however, can vary depending on the size of your filter, the frequency with which you run your furnace and AC unit, and some other specifications that are unique to your individual HVAC system and home.
The simple answer to which furnace filter you should use is that, for the vast majority of Northern California homes, a MERV rating between 8 and 11 is what you’ll want to aim for.
First things first, though, let’s discuss what a MERV rating is. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. Simply put, it’s a rating system designed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers. The scale starts at 1 on the very bottom and goes up to 20 at the very top. When selecting the right furnace filter rating for your home, you want to strike a balance between efficiency at filtering impurities out of the air without restricting air flow so severely that it forces your HVAC to work harder. A furnace filter rated too highly on the MERV scale can lead to increased heating and cooling costs and even a malfunction or breakdown of your furnace.
I’ve talked about the importance of using the right MERV-rated filter in your home in the past, and in order to be absolutely certain you pick the right one, I want to strongly recommend again that you enlist the help of a trained HVAC professional to guide you through the selection process.
Common HVAC Question No. 2: How Often Should I Change My Furnace Filter?
Your work is far from over once you’ve picked out the best furnace filter to guard your home against pet dander and other allergens. The thing about filters is that their lives are finite; after they’ve collected and strained a certain amount of dust and debris, you need to have them replaced lest you run the risk of the filters becoming less effective or, in some extreme cases, the airflow to your HVAC becoming restricted and clogged.
A general rule of thumb is to expect to change your furnace filter roughly every two months…
A general rule of thumb is to expect to change your furnace filter roughly every two months, or three months if your friendly neighborhood HVAC pro recommends you go with a five-inch filter. If you don’t have animals or happen to live in an area with less dust, you can generally get away with changing your filter every three months as well. Unfortunately, though, dust is a problem basically everywhere in Northern California.
Common HVAC Question No. 3: Help! I Never Remember to Change My Furnace Filter
Changing your furnace filter isn’t all that complex, but these days folks are busier and busier and working more and more, so I know having to do this every two or three months on top of everything else on your calendar can seem a bit daunting. There is, however, some good news for homeowners like you. You can sign up with pretty much any HVAC repair outfit worth its salt to have an experienced furnace tech stop by and make the quick filter change for you on a recurring basis. That way, you’ll never even have to think about it!
…when a tech comes to change your filter, he or she will also do a quick check-up to make sure that your furnace and AC are running well.
There are other benefits to having this done by a professional as well, primarily that when a tech comes to change your filter, he or she will also do a quick check-up to make sure that your furnace and AC are running well. Plus, you can also sign up for annual seasonal maintenance, so you won’t have to go out of your way to make a special call to get annual maintenance performed before our aforementioned hot and dry summers and cold and wet winters.
I know it’s easy to overlook issues related to your furnace filter because unlike some larger HVAC problems there isn’t usually an associated smell or sound or dip in the quality of performance. Finding the right size and fit for your furnace and your home, and then keeping up with putting in a fresh one once you do, however, is absolutely crucial to the health of your HVAC and your family.
Here at Bell Brothers, we’ve been helping folks find the right size filter for their furnace for years, and our experienced techs would be happy to help you do the same. We also offer a filter replacement plan so you can focus on your busy life instead of worrying when the next time you need to take care of this is. Doesn’t that sound like a comfortable fit?
At Bell Brothers, we believe in the whole-home approach to health and efficiency. Our trained HVAC professionals would not only be happy to give your furnace a once over, we’d love to make sure your windows, insulation, and ducts are also working efficiently to keep your house warm this winter. Contact us today to schedule your yearly furnace servicing.
Wondering how to finance a new furnace, or maybe even new windows and plumbing? HERO is a unique financing option that helps California homeowners afford energy efficient upgrades to their home. Contact Bell Brothers, a HERO-approved contractor, to learn more. Our local HVAC, plumbing, and window specialists will walk you through the entire process, from applications to installation.
Image courtesy Pixabay user Dustytoes