Your energy-efficient, thrifty home: The one detail you’re probably missing

Not changing your HVAC air filters often enough could be costing you money

Chances are, in today’s economy, you’re trying to save money any way you can. One of the first things you probably did was take a look at reducing your home energy costs.

First, you most likely made sure your home is well-insulated. And that’s great! A home that’s not sealed tightly against the elements is just leaking money. Of course, when your home is well-insulated, you need to keep the air inside fresh and clean, and you need to keep hot or cold air circulating properly. Hopefully, you’ve had your HVAC unit inspected and replaced if necessary; insulated your attic and basement; installed rugs, carpets, draperies; and just generally made your home snug and efficient. But there’s one more thing, one very important detail, that you might have missed. And if you did, you’re still wasting energy – and wasting money.

How often are you changing your home HVAC air filter?

With heating and cooling costs taking up so much of our home energy bills, and those bills taking such a deep bite out of our pockets, you’ve got to be careful to save as much as possible. Changing the filter is easily overlooked, but did you know that changing your filter regularly can improve the efficiency of your system by as much as 15%? That’s not pocket change.

So, how often do you change your filter? Once a year? That may not be enough. How do you know what’s the optimal amount of time between filter changes? It depends on several things.

First, you need to know what kind of filter you have. There are many different kinds, and they each have a different life span. The most common types of filters are fiberglass, polyester/pleated, high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA), and washable air filters.

Fiberglass filters are the most common. These are throw-away filters, which use layered fiberglass reinforced with a metal grate.

Polyester and pleated filters are similar to fiberglass, but usually have a higher resistance to airflow. They are better at stopping dust and other particulates.

High efficiency particulate arrestance, or HEPA, filters are even better. They catch even finer particulates, and can be rated to stop up to 99.97 percent of all particles of 0.3 microns or larger.

Less common are washable air filters. They rely on the build-up of dust on the cloth to improve their efficiency. These are usually seen in industrial applications with high volumes of coarse dust, rather than in home environments.

Once you’ve identified your filter type, you should also answer a few questions.

First of all, how good do you feel the air quality is in your home? Obviously, if you’ve been experiencing any issues such as irritation, allergies or frequent colds, you should be replacing your filter more often, or changing to a different type.

Do you have pets? Dander can build up quite rapidly, and can clog filters sooner than you think.

How many people are living in your home? The more people, the more dust and dirt get kicked around. What’s more, people create dander, too, just like pets. (Dander is just a fancy name for microscopic skin flakes that we all shed regularly.)

Finally, it’s obvious that if you live in an area where the air is more polluted, or with lots of construction, like in a big city, your filters should be changed more frequently.

So, keeping all that in mind, how do you know when to change your HVAC filters? Well, the simple answer is to change them when they’re dirty. Obviously, right? But generally, you should check and probably change your filters once a month.

By making this one simple adjustment – changing your HVAC filters monthly instead of yearly – you could realize noticeable savings on your home energy bills. It just takes the right mind-set to make this a new habit. Set a reminder in your calendar to change out those filters on the first day of each month, and you’ll find that paying attention to this detail can help your air filters catch more than dirt and dust: they could plug up a pesky money leak.

Take energy-efficiency to the next level, by replacing those HVAC filters monthly!