What is this one thing, you ask? A dirty air filter!
Are you surprised by our answer? If you’re like most homeowners, you might think the only reason you should care about your HVAC system’s air filter is due to the allergens and particles in your air. But you’re only partially correct.
It’s often assumed that a dirty air filter is a problem because it keeps the air dirty, and this is why HVAC technicians tell you to change yours every 1-3 months. If you aren’t suffering from allergies, you may think your air filter is doing just fine.
But here’s the thing—helping your indoor air quality is only a very small fraction of what this air filter does. The true purpose of your standard air filter is to protect the interior components of your HVAC system. Read on to learn more about this, and to discover just how a dirty air filter can impact your HVAC efficiency and quality of life.
Air Filters and Your Comfort
The air filter that comes standard with your HVAC system is installed between the intake air and your HVAC unit. A clogged air filter prevents air from circulating through the vents. In other words, there is not enough air to keep you cool (or warm, when we’re talking about furnace air filters). So, you’ll feel less comfortable.
If you begin to notice hot spots throughout your house during the summer, or if your thermostat says one temperature but you feel like it’s another, a clogged air filter could be to blame. But as we’re going to talk about more, minor discomfort is the least of your worries.
How a Dirty Air Filter Throws Off the Cooling Process
Your cooling system functions by absorbing heat from the air within your home. As the refrigerant within your system evaporates, the evaporator coil absorbs the heat from the air blowing over the coil. But if the air filter is too clogged up, it restricts how much warm air your system is able to draw in. This can actually cause the coil to freeze!
Now you have two problems. First off, a frozen coil won’t be able to absorb heat, which will create low airflow and inefficient operation. The second problem is that as the ice thaws, the water will have nowhere to go but onto and into your property.
That said, there are a couple different causes for a frozen evaporator coil. Therefore, if you notice yours is frozen over, first check the air filter. But if the problem doesn’t resolve itself, it’s time to call a pro.
A Dirty Filter Leads to Higher Energy Bills
If your air filter is too clogged up, the blower fan has to work harder to try to bring in the right amount of air. Changing your air filter every 1-3 months during periods of HVAC system use restores appropriate airflow through your ductwork, helping your system work more efficiently, and as a result will help keep your monthly utility bills down where they should be.