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When it comes to heating or cooling your home efficiently, one of the most effective steps you can take is to maintain your HVAC system. Ensuring that your air filter is clean is one of the easiest ways to do this and doesn’t require any intricate knowledge of how your heater or air conditioner work.

Changing your air filter on a regular basis is key to keeping your ventilation system functioning properly. If you neglect to change it regularly you could be allowing dirt and dust to build up, costing you hundreds on professional maintenance and repair. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star program recommends that you change your filter at least once every three months but that you should increase vigilance of its dust contents during heavy use months in the summer and winter.

Depending on the way you use your HVAC system, you may need to change your filter more often or less than Energy Star’s recommendation. Here are some guidelines to follow for different living situations:

Have allergies? If you have allergies you should keep a close watch on your air filter. Change it every month or so to make sure that your HVAC isn’t working over time, and your nose isn’t either!

Have a vacation home? If you have a vacation home, guest house, or other property that isn’t occupied very frequently you may not need to change your filter as often. Having fewer people and animals around keeps your air filters cleaner longer but you should still replace these once a year.

Have a pet? Your air filter likely takes in a fair amount of shed pet hair. You should replace it more often. For a one pet household every two months may suffice but if you have several dogs or cats you may want to replace your air filter every month to keep your HVAC in top working order.

How big is your home? If you have a large home, you probably have a lot of people in it. Children coming in from outside, pets running around, people visiting all track in dirt and dust that ends up in your air filter. If you have a big home or big family you may need to check your filter more often. Looking once a month to see if your air filter is dirty is a great precaution.

Changing your air filter will not only improve your air quality at home, it puts money back in your wallet. The Department of Energy says that replacing your filter can reduce the energy consumed by your HVAC by 5-10%. Your system doesn’t have to work as hard and your electric bill will be smaller every month.

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