How And Why You Need To Clean Your Furnace Air Filter

Furnaces are complex devices with a wide variety of components that most be regularly maintained. Air filters are one of the most commonly ignored components on a furnace. This is a major mistake: air filters perform an important function and need to be cleaned regularly. Thankfully, air filter maintenance is easy enough for even the most inexperienced homeowner to handle.

Problems Caused by a Dirty Air Filter

Before we move on to cleaning, it's instructive to understand what happens if you decide to ignore your furnace air filter. Beyond the dirt and stains, it's just not a pretty sight. Common furnace problems caused by a dirty air filter include:

  • Problems with the blower motor
  • Inefficient operation or "short-cycling"
  • Overheating
  • Cracks in heat exchanger
  • Increased heating bills

Though these problems aren't a guaranteed side effect of a dirty air filter, their likelihood severely increases if you let dust, dirt, and mold build up over time.

Benefits of a Clean Furnace Air Filter

As you've seen, furnace air filters obviously cannot operate as smoothly when they are dirty. That's why cleaning them regularly is so important. If you regularly clean your furnace air filter, it will offer you the following benefits:

  • Increased performance
  • Extended system life
  • Reduced energy cost
  • Lower maintenance costs
  • Higher quality breathing air

Cleaning an Air Filter

Air filters are relatively simple to remove and clean. Follow this air filter removal and cleaning procedure to get your furnace running smoothly in no time:

  • Completely turn off your furnace
  • Locate your air filter using your furnace schematics
  • Carefully slide the air filter out of place
  • Brush off loose dirt with a cleaning brush
  • Run warm water across its surface
  • Scrub away caked dirt and stains with a wash rag
  • Hand dry with a towel and replace

Make sure you install your air filter properly before turning on your furnace. There should be a small arrow on one end indicating the bottom of the filter. Use this as a guide.

Choosing an Air Filter

If your air filter is too damaged or dirty to clean, you're going to have to get a new one. Before you buy a replacement air filter for your furnace, it's important to understand its MERV rating.

MERV or "minimum efficiency reporting value" indicates how efficient a filter is on a scale of 1-16. Filters with low MERV ratings are less efficient, but cheaper, while higher rated filters are more efficient and more expensive.

Performing these simple procedures at least once or twice a year should be sufficient. However, if you run into serious furnace problems that you know you can't handle, don't be afraid to call a furnace service repair expert as soon as possible.