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How often should you change your AC filter?

  AC Filter

This is a very dirty AC filter.

Alina Bradford / CNET

Your Central Air filter is an important tool to reduce the allergens in your home and keep it a little dustier. Many HVAC filters actually say on the packaging that a once-a-month schedule is a good idea to keep dust and allergens to a minimum.

You probably already know that you should change your filter regularly, but what you may not know is exactly how this frequency can often vary from one household to another. Here's what you need to know to keep the air in your house clean ̵

1; and even save some money.

Shop smart

Some filters last longer than others, so be sure to check out the packaging. All filters have a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). The higher the MERV number, the better the quality of the filter, ie impurities can be kept better and last longer.

The only drawback to choosing a filter with a high MERV rating is that the airflow in the air conditioning system can be slowed down. The best bet is to strike a balance between good quality and good airflow, which is usually a MERV of 6 to 8. If you have a high-efficiency AC, you can get a higher rating. Check the user manual to be sure.

Change the timeframe

Now that you have a good filter, there are a mix of factors that affect how often you replace it. Every three weeks is a good rule of thumb if you have multiple pets, live in a very dusty or polluted area, or have severe allergies.

On the other hand, if you rarely use your air conditioner, you can wait up to six months to change the filter. A good way to remember is to switch it off once in spring and once in fall.

There are many variables, right? The only way to be sure that you change your filter at the right time for your home is to check once a week how fast it gets dirty. Hold it to the light and if you can not see the light through the filter, it's definitely time for a new one.

An added benefit

Not only changing your AC filter helps the air conditions of your home, it can also save you money. Replacing a clogged air filter with a new one can cut air conditioning energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent, according to the US Department of Energy. Less energy consumption means less electricity bill, which is a big win in the summer, when these electricity costs usually go up.

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