We all know that we should change the air filters regularly. That’s why, at one point, you might start wondering, if your air handler actually has one or not.
The chances are high that your HVAC system’s air filter is located where the return duct enters the air handler. Large systems may have more than one air filter which can be found at the air handler and in the return vents.
What Is an Air Handler Filter?
A filter in your HVAC system has an extremely important job to do – it filters out dust, pet dander, pollen, and a lot of other small particles from the air that you breathe.
The filter also helps prolong the life of your heating and cooling system as it captures plenty of airborne particles that could, otherwise, settle somewhere in the unit and cause damage.
Does air handler have filter? It certainly does; however, not every air handler has the same type of filter.
- Fiberglass filters
Usually, such air filters have a MERV rating of 4. It is one of the cheapest options and such filters are disposable.
A fiberglass filter is able to capture large particles, but it will still let a lot of dust through. This is not a great choice, if you or your family members tend to suffer from allergies or other respiratory issues.
- Pleated filters
These ones are made out of polyester or cotton folds. The more pleats, the better the filter is at capturing such small particles as dust, pollen, and mold spores.
It’s a bit more expensive and generally has a MERV rating between 5 and 8.
- HEPA filters
High-efficiency particulate air filters can filter out up to 99.97% of airborne particles.
These are the most expensive ones. You can find a HEPA filter with the highest MERV ratings, however, do bear in mind that the finer the filter, the harder it is for your HVAC system to pull in the air.
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Where Are the Air Filters in My House?
There are quite a few places in your house where you may find the air filters. Bear in mind that if you have a large HVAC system, you might have a few filters.
The most common locations include:
- Behind the air register (on the ceiling or in the wall)
- In old houses – behind the air register located in the floor
- On the actual heating and cooling unit (near the air handler)
Where Is the Air Handler Located?
Some air handlers might look like a gas furnace. It is, basically, a metal casing that houses the evaporator coil and the blower fan.
Air handlers are installed inside. They are usually located in your basement, attic, or the closet.
If you know that you have a system with up-flow application, then look for the air handler in your basement. A system with horizontal application is usually installed in the attic.
Why Does My Central Air Have Two Filters?
There are a few cases when a few filters will be needed.
- Your house is relatively big and your HVAC system has two return vents and each one has an air filter.
- If your system has an air handler and one return air vent, then you are going to have two filters. Bear in mind that, in general, filters in the air handler have to be changed less often.
- You might have two central air systems, which means that you’re also going to have a few air handler filters or return vents. Such systems are quite common in two-story houses, where you need the temperatures to be regulated differently across the floors.
Do All Houses Have Air Filters?
If you have an HVAC system, then the chances are high that you have one or a few air filters. Even older homes have filters (they are located behind a register in the floor).
If you can’t locate the filter, then you should keep looking. Sometimes, the filters might be hard to find, especially, if your house has multiple systems.
Your unit might not have a filter only in case someone had purposefully removed it.
How Do You Put an Air Filter in an Air Handler?
- Locate the air filters.
- If you haven’t replaced the filters in the return vents in a while, then you might have to vacuum or dust the return air vent cover.
- Open the vent cover and get rid of the old filter.
- If you want, you can write the installation date on the new air filter with a permanent marker.
- Find the airflow direction indicator on the new filter to make sure that you are putting it in the correct way.
- Close the return air vent cover.
How Often Should I Change My Air Handler Filter?
|Your situation||How often you should change the air filter|
|You have regular 1’’-3’’ filters||Every 1-2 months|
|It’s your vacation house and/or you live alone and/or you don’t have any allergies and no pets||Every 6-12 months|
|You live in an ordinary suburban house and you have no pets||Every 3 months|
|You have a pet (a cat or a dog)||Every 2 months|
|You have a few pets and/or someone with allergies/respiratory issues||Every 3-7 weeks|
What Happens If You Put Air Filter in Backwards?
All filters have special indications that will help you figure out which way to install them (you’ll usually notice arrows).
The two sides of the filter might look the same, but they are not. One side is more porous which allows the filter to effectively trap airborne particles without slowing down the airflow through the system.
If, for some reason, you have put the filter backwards, the HVAC system would have to work harder as it would be more difficult for it to suck the air.
This will result in insufficient airflow, high utility bills, and, in some cases, a damaged heating and cooling system.
What Happens If You Don’t Change Your Air Filter?
Here are the main things that are going to happen, if the filter is constantly clogged.
- The HVAC system will end up overworking as the air can’t flow into the unit freely. This, in its turn, leads to higher utility bills.
- It will take a lot longer to heat or cool your house. The HVAC system is not able to work as effectively with a clogged filter.
- You will be putting your health at risk as the filter won’t be able to trap the airborne particles that are contaminating the air that you breathe. Headaches, dizziness, eye irritation, and even respiratory infections – these are only a few health-related consequences of dirty air filters.
How Do You Clean an Air Handler Filter?
If you have a reusable filter, then…
- Turn the HVAC unit off.
- Take out the filter and place it on the ground (facing upwards). Vacuum it as thoroughly as possible.
- If you want to go the extra mile, you can let the filter soak in a mixture of warm water and vinegar (1:1). You can also use a garden hose or warm running water to clean a mildly dirty filter.
- Reinsert the air filter only once it had fully dried.
Why Do My Air Filters Get Dirty So Fast?
The most common reasons that would make you change the filter more often include…
- Leaky air ducts
- A continuously running fan
- Too many pets
- Excess soot in the house
A 1-inch pleated air filter