Does my furnace's air filter do anything at all?


Our house seems very dusty. The tops of bookshelves, computer screens, etc seem to accumulate a thin film of dust just a few days after cleaning. Certain other co-inhabitants of my house have allergies, and want me to do something about the dust.

So I figured, I'll start with the HVAC system and see what's up. I removed the filter from my Weather King Air Handler (14AHJ11S01C01), and discovered that it uses a "permanent washable filter". It had a sprinkling of dust, but not the thick cakes I've removed from other types of permanent filtration systems. What alarmed me was the extremely loose weave of the thing:

I mean, look at this thing:

This looks like it would maybe intercept any stray birds and meteorites that find their way into my air ducts, but not much else. Is this doing anything at all? Am I missing a piece of the filter?

From what I've read most furnaces don't have enough force to push through something like a HEPA filter, but...

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If it is a window unit, it is probably behind the snap-on front panel. When you remove that panel, you should see the top part where the air blows into the room, then a larger part below that looks kinda like a grill, which is where the inside air intake is located. You can vacuum that part, but be careful and don't bend those things. If there is no filter there, that could be the problem. I have a friend with an A/C man who swears all most a/cs that aren't working need is to be taken to the car wash and given a power wash, then allow to air dry THOROUGHLY, and it works great then. This has worked for me in the past, also.
If it is central air, the only filter we have is in the hallway ceiling, not actually on the outside unit. Make sure it is cleaned good, and there aren't any leaf or grass cuttings around the outside...

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Photo: Greenwood Heating

Dust bunnies are multiplying, dog hair is piling up, and bird feathers are flying—oh my, it must be the furnace filter!

To change a furnace filter is perhaps the quickest and easiest way to maximize the efficiency of your heating system—and to help purify your home’s air.

Basic furnace filters are designed to trap dust, dirt, and airborne particulates before they can get into the system and potentially damage the fan or the heating coil. More expensive filters perform the same role, plus they can enhance the air quality in your home by trapping bacteria, pollen, and mildew and mold spores. Since most of the air in your house circulates through your HVAC system, furnace filters are your first line of defense against dust and airborne allergens.

Photo: Spaco

So how do you know when it’s time to change a furnace filter? Here are some general guidelines—although, as always, it is a good idea to check your owner’s manual for...

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Does Your Noisy Air Filter Keep You Up At Night?

Air filter noise is a very common problem in residential heating and air conditioning equipment and there are many causes. Although the noise gets your attention, it may only be a symptom of a much bigger problem.

Common Causes of Noisy Air Flow

Undersized return grills and return ducts are unfortunately very common. They can also be the most difficult and costly problems to correct. However, there some other solutions you can try. Although they won’t fix the real problem that causes of the noise, they may eliminate the noise.

The most common air filters used in residential heating and air conditioning systems are pleated filters and they often don’t fit well into the return grill or air handler. Return air, like electricity and water, takes the path of least resistance and the path of least resistance is often around the air filter instead of through it.

Unfortunately when air passes...

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If you’ve read our articles, then you know that we are a small, U.S. Veteran-Owned heating and air conditioning company, and pride ourselves on giving people honest, straight answers to their questions. This will be no different – if your furnace is not blowing air on a cold day, it can be concerning. We get more and more furnace questions this time of the year, as temperatures drop, and people transition from air conditioning to heating. But what should you do if your problem is a furnace not blowing air? We have already addressed what to do if you have a furnace blowing cold air, or when your furnace keeps turning on and off repeatedly in different posts, but in this article we will be addressing what to do if your furnace is not blowing air through your ducts at all. As with many of these furnace problems, there are many reasons for your furnace to stop blowing air, some of which you can troubleshoot yourself and some of which will require a licensed HVAC contractor. In this...

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I inspected a house the other day – very nice home in one of Utah’s best cities to live. It was one of those million dollar plus sort of homes – the kind that makes you wonder what the guy does. Turns out that this particular breadwinner was really good at buying and selling businesses, but not so outstanding at changing his furnace filter.

There’s a filter in there?

He had been in the home for 7 years, and never thought to consider that there might be a furnace filter in there somewhere. So after 7 years of use on one filter, I show up. I go to the furnace, and there it is – oddly located – about seven feet up off the floor and above the furnace. Needless to say, when I pulled it out, it was a tad dirty.

The guy was all kinds of embarrassed, but perhaps he didn’ t need to feel quite so bad – I see filters in that sort of condition commonly. Maybe once or twice a month. Renters are especially bad at completely forgetting about their furnace until it doesn’t...

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When an A/C technician goes on a service call, half of all his service calls for that day are water-leak related. What they find is either the drain line is clogged or the A/C filter is clogged. If the filter is clogged, the unit ices up and the service tech can't do anything until it thaws out, which takes a few hours, and then he has to come back. In the meantime, there is no Air Conditioning. When he finally returns, he will check the system to make sure the unit is running properly and then he advises that the filter has to be replaced because the filter was not changed soon enough, that is why the unit iced up. This all could have been prevented if the filter was changed in a timely manner. Most people do not know how important it is to change the A/C filter every 4-8 weeks; no longer. This will prevent the unit from icing up and there will be no need to have to pay for an expensive service call.

Why Does the A/C and Furnace Filter Companies Make it so Difficult to...
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Quite often we find ourselves assuming what every homeowner knows and doesn't know. So let's make sure everyone knows where the typical furnace filter is located. It begins by identifying the return air of the furnace?

I know we're still in the cooling season, but for this illustration, we're going to use the winter heating mode. In the cooling season, you still use the same duct system, however, the difference would be the supply side from the furnace pushes the air that has been cooled out to the rooms in your house. The return air would be the warmed air that has absorbed moisture from your home. You can refer back to this article: How-Your-Air-Conditioning-System-Keeps-Your-Cool

There are two sides to every furnace; the heated air side and the cold air return side. The heated air side starts at the furnace, goes through the heat exchanger and then travels through the vents. The cold air return side starts at the cold air vents, travels through the return air ducts...

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The most efficient way to filter household air is through your home's forced-air heating or central air-conditioning system. The filters are built into the return-air ductwork, trapping particles as air passes through. Such systems are passive; as long as the fan is running, they are constantly filtering all the air in your house. Whole-house filters come in four main types.

Flat filters
If you have a forced-air furnace, you've already got a rudimentary air-filtration system: That matted-fiberglass filter that should be changed once a month. "You can't change it often enough," says This Old House plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey. When it clogs with dust, it stops working and overworks the furnace. In fact, those filters are designed to protect your furnace from large particles of dust, and while they might keep surfaces in your house a bit cleaner, they won't block the microscopic particles that are most irritating to lung tissue. Pleated filters, which...

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The air filter is an important component of your home’s heating system. The initial reason filters were used in air-forced systems was to prevent large pieces of dust from getting into and settling on the HVAC equipment. Today, tightly woven filters capture even tinier particles and contribute to cleaner indoor air.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, a clogged filter blocks airflow, reduces system efficiency, and potentially causes premature breakdowns. You should clean or replace the filter every 30 – 90 days or according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to avoid these problems.

Reasons Your Furnace Filter Is Black

You may examine your furnace filter and see that it has turned completely black. Under normal conditions, your filter should last at least a month and gradually become clogged with grey-colored dust and debris. It’s not normal, or healthy, for a furnace filter to turn completely black.

If this happens, one of the...

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This. Several years ago a bunch of BMW motorcycle enthusiasts decided to test the claims. They dyno tested several bikes with factory air filters, K&N filters, and NO filter, and made several runs.

There was exactly zero measurable power increase.

The claims tend to work like this:

-Factory air filter produces 1.5" H2O pressure drop.
-Wonder filter produces only 0.5" H2O pressure drop.

Wonder filter is 300% better!!!

This ignores the fact that atmospheric pressure is about 384"H2O. Therefore a 1.5" pressure drop represents, at most, a 0.3% power loss. If the improvement were directly proportional to pressure, then the wonder filter might produce a 0.2% power increase, which is completely buried in the noise of temperature variations and barometric pressure changes. But this is not the case. Mass flow varies as the square root of pressure drop, so that difference in pressure allows only 0.1% more mass flow.

The actual...

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You might be surprised to know this, but many homeowners don't know how to locate or change their furnace or Air Conditioner (AC) filter. This article was created to answer the following questions:

What does my furnace or AC filter do?
How to I locate my furnace filter or AC filter?
How do I change my furnace or AC filter?
What do I need to know when changing furnace filters?

What is the function of the furnace AC Filter, what does it do?

The filter used for a standard residential Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems was originally designed to protect your home's heating and cooling equipment, but not necessarily to clean the air you breathe.

Air in a home is pulled into the return ductwork by your system's blower fan to be heated by the furnace heat exchanger or cooled by the air conditioner's evaporator coil. The filter, which is placed in the return ductwork, filters all the air pulled through the system before it...

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In Florida, we get to enjoy warm weather all year round. Many Floridians are lucky enough to be turning on their heater for the first time this year. However, if a burning rubber or burning plastic smell is coming out of your heater, you may be left feeling anything but lucky. Learn what these burning smells could mean and the best way to deal with them.

Smells Like: Burning Dust

After leaving your heat pump, furnace, electric heater, or any other heating system turned off all summer, dust and other debris can collect on the heating elements. So when you switch it on, all this dust gets burned off. This burning smell then gets pumped into your home along with the warm air, and that’s when you begin noticing the odd smell. It is normal for this to happen, especially at the beginning of the heating season. The smell usually lasts no more than 30 minutes, if it lasts longer this could be a sign of a more serious problem.

Need to Schedule an Appointment?

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A newly constructed home contains a lot of moisture within its building materials such as: concrete, lumber, drywall, flooring, and more. A new home can take 12 to 18 months to “dry out” inside completely. Homes are also built much more tightly these days, causing them to hold in moisture. A Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) or Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) system will remove humidity and moisture from a home, preventing mold and air quality problems.

Another common cause for indoor humidity is that the outside temperature changed a large amount in a short amount of time. This requires a realignment of humidity within the house to outside conditions.

During the cold winter months, make sure your HRV/ERV is set to run intermittently (it should not be running constantly). Do not run your HRV/ERV in the summer, as it will ventilate out your air conditioned, low humidity air and make your air conditioner work harder.

You will also want to adjust your humidistat (if...

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While there are different types of furnaces, many heating systems function in the same basic manner. The four main types of furnaces include electric, gas, oil, and solid fuel. While the types of fuel differ, furnace parts tend to be similar. The basic furnace design begins with a thermostat. The thermostat gauges the temperature, which determines when the burner should be ignited.

An ignitor glows to light the burner, which simply put, burns fuel to create heat. More precisely, heated gas from the burner begins to raise the temperature inside the furnace’s heat exchanger. Heat exchangers are dual purpose furnace parts. They warm the air that is then distributed and they keep fumes created by burned fuel separated from the heated air that will be circulated.

Other furnace parts include the blower, which draws air in to be warmed as well as distributing warm air back into the space that needs to be heated. The air is moved through the duct work in each direction, cool...

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Standard, disposable filters catch only the largest particles in the air and allow anything smaller than about 10 to 20 microns to pass through. (As a point of reference, a human hair measures about 100 microns across.) Fungi can be as small as 0.5 microns and bacteria 0.3 microns. Smoke particles are as small as 0.01 microns.

The big guns in dust and allergen control are accordion-style paper (media) filters and electronic air cleaners. Either of these can be installed in the place where you would find a standard filter, but the support frames are larger—about 5 to
8 in. wide. In a retrofit like ours, that means reworking the sheetmetal that connects the vertical return-air down box to the furnace.

A media filter (about $250, uninstalled) is a popular choice for allergy sufferers. Pollen can be as small as 6
microns, and media filters trap 99 percent of 6-micron and larger particles, plus about 65 percent of 1-micron particles. Interestingly, paper filters...

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