Photo Credit: Getty Images
Indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. So, to keep breathing easy, you should change air filters in your home at least every three months. However, if you live in a dusty environment or if the air filters look dirty when you check them, then you should change air filters more frequently.
Indoor air filters remove particulate matter, which includes dust, smoke, pollen, animal dander, tobacco smoke, particles generated from combustion appliances such as cooking stoves, and particles associated with tiny organisms such as dust mites, molds, bacteria, and viruses, according to the EPA.
In most homes, air filters are usually located near thermostats. Once you find your furnace and the filter compartment, open it up and pop out the filter. If you aren’t sure what size air filter you need, check out the existing filter — the sizes are noted on the side. When you insert a new filter, make sure that the airflow arrow is pointed toward the duct.
Two common types of air filters commonly used in residential furnaces and air conditioners are are flat and pleated filters. Air filters are rated with efficiency scores, which is measured by the minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) from a low of 1 to a high of 20. This also allows comparison of air filters made by different companies.
According to the EPA, some residential HVAC systems may not have the fan or motor capacity to accommodate higher efficiency filters, so you should check the HVAC manufacturer’s information before you change air filters to see if you can use more efficient filters.
Helpful tip: It’s a good idea to buy several air filters at a time so that you always have one on hand when it’s time to change them.