Many homeowners don’t realize that they can improve indoor air quality simply by performing regular HVAC maintenance tasks. Most of the residential cooling and heating systems in the area are forced-air, which means that they blow air through ductwork. Each system has an air filter with the primary purpose of keeping dust out of the equipment, but homeowners can achieve a secondary benefit by keeping the filter clean and upgrading to a higher filter quality.
Upgrading Air Filters to Improve Indoor Air Quality
If you or anyone in your household has airborne allergies, you can use your HVAC system to improve indoor air quality by upgrading the filter. Filters have MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating that indicates the size of particles they can trap. The scale runs from 1 to 16 for residential purposes. A higher MERV rating means cleaner air for your home.
Air Filter Types
The fiberglass filters have ratings from 1 to 4 and aren’t capable of trapping the more irritating particles, like dust mite waste, mold spores, pet dander, or pollen. The pleated filters have MERV ratings from 5 to 8 and will trap those offending particles. Some have ratings as high as 13, but before replacing your filter with anything higher than 8, check with your HVAC contractor or your system’s owner’s manual first because too dense a filter can slow down the airflow just like a dirty filter would.
Cleaner Air Filters Mean Cleaner Ducts
A clean and upgraded filter will also keep the air ducts cleaner, which helps everyone in your home breathe easier. Over time, dust can collect in the ductwork which can only be removed with professional duct cleaning. Signs of problems with the ducts include odors or dust deposits near the registers. You can remove the register cover to see how much dust and debris has collected inside the ducts.
The best way to prevent a dust buildup is to check the air filter monthly during cooling season and replace it when it’s dirty. Higher density filters trap more particulates and may need to be changed more frequently.