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How To Clean Your Furnace Filter

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A new furnace filter.As spring nears and the need for home heating starts to wane, it's time to consider giving your furnace system some care before letting it sit for the summer season.

Furnace air filters collect pollen and dust while running during the winter, and if not regularly cleaned they can build up a thick layer of contaminants that will make your furnace consume more energy, as well as spoil the air quality in your home rather than preserve it. This can be even more noticeable in the fall, when you turn your furnace on for the first time only to have a blast of smelly dust blown throughout your house.

Luckily it's easy to check, clean, or replace a furnace filter. Check your filter on a monthly basis during the heating season, in the spring before shutting your furnace down, and in the fall before starting your furnace up, and you'll enjoy a healthier home with lower heating costs.

Checking Your Furnace Filter

  1. If you've never changed your furnace filter before, you may want to have a screwdriver on hand. Some furnaces require you to unscrew panels or pry them open to reach the filter.
  2. Make sure your furnace is turned all the way off before opening any panels.
  3. Determine how to access the furnace's air filter. Many designs place the filter in a removable slot between the incoming vent and the main heating unit. Others place the filter inside the main unit with the blower, though still next to the incoming vent.
  4. Remove the filter from its frame. Pay attention to the direction of any arrows printed on the filter's edge. These arrows indicate the direction of installation for the filter to ensure proper air flow, and will need to be matched when the filter is replaced.
  5. Inspect your filter. If it is noticeably dirty and/or it's been 30 days or more since it was last inspected, it will need to be cared for.
    • Paper and fiberglass filters must always be replaced. Take note of the size of the filter as printed on its edge, and make sure you purchase a new filter of the same size.
    • Dry foam filters and certain types of eco filters can often be cleaned and reused for a longer period of time, so long as they aren't damaged. Vacuum the filter and give it a good wash. Let it dry before inspecting it in front of a light. If it seems clean, replace it in your furnace in the same direction and position as it was when you took it out.
  6. Replace any access panels.
  7. Turn your furnace back on.

If you have allergies or are sensitive to air quality, you may want to use pleated furnace filters or filters with enhanced filtration. There are a wide variety of furnace filters available online and in hardware stores, ranging in price, size, durability, and allergen filtration. Longer-lasting filters often have a higher initial cost, but save you money in the long run due to their reusability.

Finally, it's best to keep a carbon monoxide detector installed next to your furnace to monitor the safety of the air it's emitting. Follow these steps and have a regular furnace inspection by a professional every 1-2 years and you'll have a safer, warmer home.