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Furnace Filters: Options and Maintenance

Furnace Filters: Options and Maintenance

Here’s one of the most common heating problems we see at Horizon Services: people who never or rarely change their furnace filters. Far too many homeowners underestimate the importance of regular filter replacement. Others are under the erroneous impression that all furnace filters are the same; sorry, folks…but that’s not the case.

Cold Hard Fact: Selecting the right filter for your furnace and replacing your filters according to a recommended maintenance schedule is the smartest thing you can do to keep your furnace working at peak efficiency, prevent furnace breakdowns and to guarantee that your furnace has a long and productive life.

Here are some important things you need to know about filters and your furnace:

Furnace filters work to remove dust and particles from the air that circulate around your home. When the filter is dirty or clogged with debris, the furnace has to work much harder to push warm air through the blower. This means higher energy costs and increased wear and tear on the furnace.

Clogged filters can also have a negative impact on the air quality inside your home. Dust and pollutants plugging your furnace’s filter are pushed out when air blows through it. This releases mold spores, pollen, dust mites, dander, bacteria and other invisible nasties into the air inside your home. You may notice increased sensitivity like burning, itchy eyes, coughing, sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing or more acute allergic reactions.

What’s more, since many Americans spend the majority of their time indoors—some of us as much as 90 percent—most of the air we breathe is recycled. Sealing doors and windows may help reduce energy costs and restrict the release of harmful chemicals into the environment, but it also sentences us to a life of breathing the same air over and over. None of the trapped air gets out, no fresh air gets in.

A dirty furnace filter can actually help contribute to chronic conditions like asthma and allergies, as well as increase frequency of illnesses like bronchitis and the flu.

One of the best ways to maintain a healthy home is to replace your furnace filter regularly. Once a month, inspect your furnace’s filter for dirt and dust. If it looks dirty, replace it—no matter when you changed it last. More dust can accumulate at certain times of the year, like in winter when the furnace is most often used, so you may need to change the filter more frequently during these seasons.

As for types of filters, there are several options to choose from:

  • Standard furnace filters are made from fiberglass threads, cloth or open cell foam in a cardboard frame. They can be purchased at most home improvement stores for less than $5. Standard filters remove as much as 10 percent of the large dust particles in the air and should be changed monthly.
  • Reusable or washable filters are more durable and more effective in removing particles from the air. However, they do require regular cleaning and the trapped debris can be difficult to remove.
  • Pleated disposable filters have a larger capture area thanks to their folded structure. The filtering material is usually quite dense and because the surface area is bigger, these kinds of filters are more effective than other kinds—removing up to 40 percent of pollutants. They can cost as much as $10 but only need to be replaced a few times a year.
  • High efficiency pleated filters are the top of the line. They use electrostatic charges to remove debris from the air, capturing about 30 times more allergens and small particles than standard filters. They can cost upwards of $25 but are so highly regarded that they have received the endorsement of the American and Canadian Lung Associations.

If you’ve got questions about furnace filters, contact Horizon Services. One of our experienced heating service technicians can help you select the right filter for your heating system and help design the optimal filter replacement schedule. He can also show you the proper way to remove and install a filter on your furnace so that you can become a true do-it-yourselfer!

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