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Here we try to provide helpful tips and education on everything important to your family. Whether it's keeping you warm in the winter, cool in the summer or clean air quality year around. Read the Campeau Blog Today!
 
Advice from the Professionals
September 2022

How To Choose And Care For Your Furnace Filter At Home

HVAC Technician replacing furnace filter.

How To Choose And Care For Your Furnace Filter At Home

The furnace filter is one of your furnace's smallest yet most significant components. It plays a major role in your home’s heating/cooling, indoor air quality, overall furnace performance and energy bills!

However, because of its small size, it usually ends up forgotten and/or neglected. In fact, this vital component becomes seemingly invisible and inconsequential to most homeowners.

However, your furnace filter, though tucked away, has an incredible impact on your home environment. If left to fend for itself, you can bet it’ll soon rear its ugly (and dusty) head. 

While you don’t see your furnace filter daily, you do see its effects on your home, health and heating bills.

In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about the furnace filter, including,

a) How it works,

b) How to care for it and

c) When to replace it.

First up!

 

What Is a Furnace Filter and How Does It Work?

While many people assume the job of an air filter is to purify your air, that’s actually only a byproduct of the process!

The real reason for installing a furnace filter is to protect the furnace itself.

You can typically find your filter behind a metal door in the blower compartment of your furnace.

As air returns from your home to the unit, it carries a variety of contaminants - pet dander, pollen, dust etc.

If enough contaminants accumulate in your furnace, they can damage the heat exchanger, reduce system performance and cause a shutdown.

The filter has to trap these contaminants before they reach your furnace system.

 

How To Care For Your Furnace Filter

Let's imagine your floors for a second.

After a few days of constant activity in your home, your floors usually accumulate quite a bit of dirt, pet hair, dander, dust etc.

This is especially true if you have a large family or pets that shed frequently.

When you see that accumulation reach a certain point, you know it’s time to haul out the vacuum cleaner.

And if you neglect the dirt on your floors, you know it will simply spread throughout your entire house.

The same is true of your furnace filter.

Over time, the filter gets clogged with air contaminants - making it difficult for air to pass through.

As mentioned above, this can damage your furnace, lowering its lifespan.

But it can also allow these harmful contaminants to continue circulating in your home - drastically reducing indoor air quality and putting your health at risk!

Another point to consider is how a clogged filter might affect your furnace efficiency.

The more clogged your filter is, the harder your furnace works to draw in and push out air.

And the harder your system works, the more energy it uses to effectively heat your home - causing your energy bills to skyrocket!

The solution?

Taking good care of your furnace filter.

Our furnace experts at Campeau Heating recommend checking your furnace filter every 30 days for signs of blockages. That could be discolouration or even a noticeable accumulation of dust.

They also advise homeowners to keep an eye, ear and nose out for the following dirty filter warning signs:

  • More dust in your home.
  • A burning smell.
  • High energy bills.
  • Low immunity.
  • Longer runtime with ineffective heating.
  • Strange noises.

If you detect any of these signs, your furnace filter needs some immediate attention.

You have two options, depending on the type of furnace filter you have.

  1. Disposable furnace filters
  2. Washable furnace filters

Our team recommends using disposable filters over washable filters for a few reasons.

Firstly, these filters are typically more effective at trapping pet dander, mould, bacteria etc.

Secondly, washable filters are not easy to clean.

And thirdly, if you damage a washable filter even slightly, they become completely unusable.

If you use a washable filter, be sure to avoid tearing or loosening the fibres as you clean them.

If you use a disposable filter, we recommend changing it at least every 90 days. And every 30 days if you have pets, a large family or family members with allergies.

 

How To Choose The Right Furnace Filter

Choosing the right filter for your furnace can be a confusing process.

Add to that the varying filter types, ratings and sizes, and the process gets even more difficult!

So we’ve simplified the process for you!

Below is everything you need to know when shopping for a new furnace filter.

 

Types of Filters

There are five main types of filters to choose from, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.

Fibreglass

The fibreglass filter is the cheapest option but offers minimal protection.

It can trap up to 80% of particles that are 50 microns or larger and 25% of particles that are 3-10 microns.

This filter greatly improves the airflow of your heating system.

However, it does little to remove pollutants that can harm your health.

Polyester

A disposable polyester filter offers more protection but is typically much more expensive.

It can trap up to 95% of particles that are 5 micros are larger.

It's also more effective in trapping pollutants that can harm your health.

Electrostatic

The reusable electrostatic filter has charged fibres - creating static electricity. This charge allows the filter to attract particles right out of the air!

Electrostatic filters come in many MERV ratings (which we will discuss below). But to give you an idea of its effectiveness, we’ll imagine a MERV rating of 10.

With a MERV 10, an electrostatic filter can trap 85% of particles between 3-10 microns.

It can also catch almost 65% of particles between 1-3 microns.

Pleated

The disposable pleated filter is a highly effective option.

It typically has a MERV rating of about 8 - meaning it can trap almost 95% of particles between 3 and 10 microns.

One of the main benefits of the pleated filter is that it can trap more particles without reducing your airflow.

HEPA

The HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter is the most effective option.

It can trap up to 99% of particles that are 0.3 microns or larger.

Many homeowners choose the HEPA filter over any other filter because of its effectiveness. 

However, they worry that with the tight web fibres, it can be difficult for air to pass through - reducing airflow.

In the past, this pressure drop was possible. But, thankfully, the upgraded HEPA filters sold today are way more effective and energy efficient.

 

Air Filter Ratings

Speaking of effectiveness, let’s talk about MERV ratings.

MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value. And it measures the ability a filter has to trap particles between 0.3 and 10 microns.

When selecting an air filter, you’ll notice that each filter has its own rating - between 1 and 16.

The higher the rating, the more small particles the filter can effectively catch.

But don’t just go buy the filter with the highest MERV rating! It’s important to know that, while the higher ratings offer better protection, they can also reduce airflow.

Always ensure the filter you purchase is as effective as it is energy efficient. Otherwise, you might be looking at quite the expensive energy bills.

 

Filter Sizes

The third factor you need to consider when shopping for a furnace filter is its size.

Furnace filters are not universal. And ensuring that it’s the correct size is crucial!

Installing the wrong size filter means it cannot effectively trap particles.

Not sure what size filter furnace needs?

While filters come in a variety of different sizes, the two most common are:

  • 16 x 25 x 1 inch
  • 20 x 25 x 1 inch

But don’t take our word for it!

To ensure you get the correct size, open your furnace filter cabinet and look at the inside of the door. There should be a label there with the exact filter dimensions.

 

For More Furnace Maintenance Tips, Follow Along With Our Sudbury Furnace Experts!

In Sudbury, Ontario, keeping your furnace in good condition is imperative. And with winter on the way, it’s time to prepare your furnace for the cold season ahead.

For more furnace maintenance tips, keep following along! And if you have any questions about your own furnace, don’t hesitate to give us a shout.

You can reach us at (705) 560-2441 or send us a message online!

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Temperatures Are Dropping! Shut Down The A/C and Power Up The Furnace!

Family enjoying the cozy warmth of their home on a fall day.

Temperatures Are Dropping! Shut Down The A/C and Power Up The Furnace!

While many of us wish summer would never end, that just isn’t possible here in Sudbury, Ontario.

Our summers are insanely brief, which is why Canadians take advantage of every summer’s day. Because they know it could be the last one of the season!

Soon, leaves will change colour.

The wind will pick up.

And frost will blanket our yards.

If we’ve learned anything as Sudbury homeowners, it's that preparation is key.

You never quite know when the next season will arrive! And having your HVAC system ready and waiting can save you a heap of stress.

So, as you say your goodbyes to the brief heat of summer, don’t forget to start gearing your efforts towards the upcoming fall season.

Not sure where to begin?

Our Fall HVAC Checklist can help guide your transition - step by step!

 

Shutting Down Your Air Conditioner

Below are 5 crucial steps to shut your air conditioner down for the fall season.

While these steps are simple, they are also vital. Each of these steps ensures your system is in good working order - so you're always one step ahead of our ever-changing seasons.

Once you’ve powered off your air conditioning system, follow our checklist below!

 

Clean Your Outdoor Condenser Unit

Your outdoor condenser unit consists of many moving parts - all working to remove heat from your indoor air.

Because your condenser is outdoors, it’s not only vulnerable to the weather but also to surrounding dirt and debris.

Leaves, sticks, and other debris can quickly clog up your system - preventing efficient airflow.

And while this won’t harm your air conditioner during its off-season, it can definitely damage the system once it’s powered up.

At Campeau Heating, we recommend cleaning your outdoor condenser before packing it away for the season.

 

Clean Around The A/C Unit

Cleaning around the condenser unit is just as important!

After all, what’s the point of cleaning the unit itself if more dirt and debris will inevitably enter it?

Save yourself the hassle by clearing sufficient space around your condenser.

Our HVAC experts recommend at least 1 to 3 feet of clearance surrounding the entire unit.

Upon installation, your technician probably suggested,

a) Installing a concrete slab below your air conditioner or

b) Placing gravel or mulch around it.

These are very effective ways to help limit the weeds, dirt and other debris that could clog up your system.

Other landscaping solutions that help limit debris from entering your A/C unit include:

  • Removing or trimming trees/plants back.
  • Creating a gravel garden.
  • Installing evergreen plants as a windbreaker.
  • Building a protective barrier with trellis, screens or lattice boxes.

 

Empty Drain Lines and Pans

A clean A/C drain line is crucial for effective air conditioning. 

A drain line’s job is to remove condensation from the evaporator coils and lead it safely away from your home.

But if the drain has a blockage, the condensate pan can overflow - damaging your air conditioner.

An overflowing condensate pan can even lead to water damage in your home!

How does your drain line get blocked in the first place?

Over time, sludge, bacteria and mould can accumulate within the drain line - clogging the line and preventing efficient water flow.

On the outer ends of the drain line, you also have to think about dirt, dust and unwanted insects clogging the entrances.

These vulnerabilities are why our technicians recommend having your drain lines cleaned annually.

 

Inspect The Unit and Exterior Pipes For Damage

The third step in shutting your air conditioner down for the season is a thorough system inspection.

Your A/C worked especially hard this year. And after powering through multiple heat waves, it deserves a thorough check-in.

During your end-of-year A/C inspection, be sure to:

  • Change the air filter.
  • Ensure all electrical components are working.
  • Secure all physical connections.
  • Check refrigerant levels.
  • Check the blower motor.
  • Check unit for leaks, cracks or loose seals.

 

Place a Cover Over The A/C Unit

The final step in shutting your A/C down for the fall season is to place a waterproof cover over the outdoor condenser unit.

This cover protects the unit from ice, snow, dirt and debris that might blow in over the fall and winter seasons.

 

Powering Up Your Furnace

Now that your air conditioner is safely tucked away, it’s time to ready your furnace for that inevitable first frost!

Below are 8 steps to powering up your furnace:

Clean The Inside Of Your Furnace

Before you start up your furnace, you’ll want to give it a deep clean.

After sitting back for an entire summer, the inner components of the system are bound to be dusty.

And that dust will burn as soon as you turn your heat on - stinking up your entire house!

But if you didn’t clean your furnace before shutting it down in the spring, there’s more than just dust to worry about.

Pet hair, dander, dead skin and dirt can all pile up while the furnace is in use.

So, if it wasn’t cleaned before you shut it down, all that accumulation is still there - ready to circulate in your home as soon as you turn the heat on.

The solution?

Dust the blower, motor, burners and heat exchanger.

 

Change The Air Filter

Another common place for dust and dirt to pile up is in your furnace filter.

If you changed your furnace filter before shutting your A/C down for the summer, you shouldn’t have to replace it quite yet.

However, if you didn’t change the filter in the spring, then it’s definitely time to head to the hardware store for a replacement.

At Campeau Heating, our indoor air quality experts recommend changing your furnace filter every 30-90 days. This ensures proper airflow and healthier air quality!

 

Clean Your Air Ducts

Next up on your cleaning list is your air ducts - AKA the lungs of your home!

All central heating systems use a network of ducts to circulate heat throughout the home.

And, as you can probably imagine, these ducts are perfect hideouts for mould, dust and other allergens.

If neglected, your air ducts can circulate these allergens into your home, causing:

  • Respiratory infections,
  • Allergy/Asthma symptoms
  • Other health effects.

So, before you turn up the heat, call your local air duct cleaning company!

 

Clear The Area Surrounding Your Furnace

Once you’ve finished cleaning your internal furnace system, the next step is focusing on the area surrounding it.

Many homeowners like to treat their furnace rooms as storage rooms.

However, this can create a dangerous hazard in your home.

We always recommend clearing your furnace room of all:

  • Flammable items,
  • Unnecessary clutter and
  • Hazardous chemicals.

 

Check Belts and Pulleys

Two invaluable mechanical components of an air conditioning system include its belts and pulleys.

These two moving parts control the blower and motor.

Over time, these components can wear out - potentially causing your entire heating system to break down!

Checking for wear and tear on belts and pulleys before the cold season begins ensures these components won’t break at the most inopportune time.

 

Check The Limit Switch

The limit switch is a safety control within your heating system.

Its role is to regulate the temperature of the furnace itself.

The limit switch powers off the burner if specific components become too hot. Once the temperature drops, it also shuts off the blower.

This prevents the furnace from overheating and becoming a hazard to your home.

 

Inspect Electrical Components

Another necessary safety precaution before powering up your furnace is an electrical safety check.

During an electrical safety check, all electrical parts and connections need an inspection.

A faulty wire connection alone can cause extensive heating repairs. This is why our heating experts always recommend having these components inspected.

 

Test Your System

Once you’ve reset the thermostat to your desired temperature, it’s time for a test run!

You’ll want to check for:

  • Furnace smells
  • Furnace noises
  • A malfunctioning pilot light
  • Ineffective heating etc.

Notice something out of the ordinary? If so, it might be time to schedule a furnace maintenance visit with your Campeau Heating technician.

 

Need a Furnace Upgrade? See Our Sudbury Heating Selection!

If your furnace is beyond repair, you need a new heating system - fast! 

The cold weather won’t hold off forever. And, as we mentioned above, the first frost can arrive at any time.

If you need a furnace upgrade this fall, browse our heating selection!

We offer a variety of heating solutions, including:

  • Gas,
  • Oil,
  • Geothermal and
  • Electric!

Our heating team at Campeau will help you find the right fit for your home!

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