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Cooper Mechanical Blog

March Maintenance: Replacing HVAC Air Filters

Posted by: Cooper MechanicalWednesday, March 01, 2017


An inexpensive fiberglass filter (above) catches large debris without restricting airflow

Maintenance Starts with Filters

March means HVAC maintenance. In Myrtle Beach, we've been running air conditioning much more than heating this winter. Although it's just the start of March, a yellow dusting of pollen everywhere has many on the Grand Strand sniffling in the throes of an early Spring. 

One of the easiest things you can do to maintain the effectiveness of your HVAC system and improve your airflow is to change your HVAC filters regularly. Depending upon your system, filter preference and usage, filters should be changed every 30 to 90 days, with special exceptions made for those with allergies or specially-designed media filter systems.

What Filter Should I Buy?

Overwhelmed by the choices of filters available to you at your local home improvement store? For many, choosing the proper filter is a matter of price. As one Cooper professional explained it: most don't know which is best and simply choose something "in the middle." 

Many assume the most expensive filter is the best and the cheapest is the worst, and so they pick a moderately-priced filter and call it a day. In most cases, this ends up being a $5-7 MERV-rated pleated filter with a recommended life of 60-90 days. 

However, in our experience, customers are generally better off buying the cheapest filter available, which in most cases is a 1" fiberglass filter with a 30-day lifespan.

Is the Inexpensive Fiberglass Filter Better than a Pleated Filter?

The short answer is that for your average HVAC system and person without severe allergies, the cheap, monthly fiberglass filter is the better option. While the fiberglass filter will not catch many of the smaller particles (leading one Cooper technician to call them "boulder catchers"), they will allow for maximum airflow while still trapping large particulates. 

The pleated air filters are much denser (able to trap micro-particles) and provide a greater surface area, which is helpful if you want to trap small particulates like pollen and microscopic allergens. However, the pleated filter can often restrict airflow and result in build-up in your system. 

Restricted airflow creates much more costly problems. Thicker filters restricting circulation can damage compressors, cause coils to freeze up, and prevent vents from distributing cool air. Bad airflow causes HVAC systems to run continuously as they struggle to push cool air. Because of this, homeowners are much better off selecting one of the inexpensive "boulder catcher" filters that allows air (and probably some micro particles) to flow freely. This is better for your HVAC systems health and effectiveness.

What About Large Media Filters?

Perhaps you've seen the 4-5" thick media filters with high-efficiency claims and low replacement rates on the packaging. While these filters are able to catch many more particles than standard filters, it is important that you have an HVAC system and ducts designed for this type of filter, otherwise the restricted airflow issue may occur. If you are unsure whether a media filter is right for you, be sure to call Cooper and let our professionals find the best and most affordable solution for your home or business.

Call Cooper for Clean and Service

Changing air filters is only one part of maintaining a healthy HVAC system. Did you know that your coils should be cleaned bi-annually? Dirt and debris also build up around your system's coils, which can further restrict airflow and lead to those expensive problems listed above. A clean and service contract with Cooper helps keep your system clean and let's you identify small problems before they turn into big ones.