Even if you're a casual and happy housekeeper, you know how frustrating it can be to discover a thick layer of dust. You can wipe it away or vacuum it up, but you can count on this: the dust will soon return. Does this mean you need a heating system repair?
Dust and airborne particles are ubiquitous and resilient, and they also pose legitimate health risks. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has long warned homeowners that indoor air pollutants rank among the top five environmental health risks. As bad as this may sound, it gets worse: the EPA further says that indoor pollutant levels can be up to five times, and sometimes even more than 100 times, higher than outdoor pollutant levels.
Clearly, there's no escaping indoor pollutants, especially because most people – even Californians – spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. You can take a huge step toward keeping your indoor air clean - and further protect yourself from needing a heating system repair - by maintaining your furnace filter. Your family's health and well being may depend on it since the filter's job is to trap dust, dirt, mold and other pollutants, thereby keeping your indoor air clear and your furnace running efficiently.
Naturally, the type of maintenance your filter requires depends on whether your furnace uses a disposable polyester filter or a reusable, washable filter. While you review your maintenance strategy, it also might be worthwhile to consider the pros and cons of both types of filters.
There's no denying the ease of disposable mesh filters. You open the panel door on your furnace, remove the old filter and, being careful not to crush the cardboard frame, slide in the new one.
The biggest “problem” a disposable filters poses is remembering to check it regularly. You should do so once a month, perhaps right after you pay your utility bill. In reality, you might have to change the filter only once every three months, but the time between filter changes varies greatly. For example, if you have pets, or someone in your home smokes, your filter is likely to absorb more pollutants. And if someone in your family suffers from asthma or allergies, you might wish to be extra vigilant about filter maintenance.
Whatever your schedule, hold the filter up to a light or shine a flashlight behind it. If you can't clearly see through it, it's time for a new filter.
Washable filters with fiberglass or metal frames have largely fallen out of favor – even among the most casual and happy housekeepers. These filters should be vacuumed first and then hosed down in the driveway or rinsed clean in a utility tub. It's important to ensure that this type of filter is bone dry before returning it to its rightful place; the last thing you want on a furnace filter is fungi and mold, which will spew right through your ducts and contaminate the air that you breathe.
While some people happily adapt to the time commitment these filters require, it's getting more difficult for heating system repair companies to recommend them based on their MERV rating alone. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, and all types of furnace filters have one.
The higher the MERV rating, the more efficient a filter will be at trapping pollutants. Whereas pleated disposable furnace filters are rated between 5 and 13, reusable filters usually rate only between 1 and 4 on the MERV scale.
Choosing and maintaining the right filter for your furnace is vital for myriad reasons, so let us help arm you with the information you need as you square off in the dust battle in your home.
Are you properly maintaining your heating system? Download our free checklist below.