Today's "no-no" list item: Air-conditioning and furnace filters
It would seem nobody accepts these to recycle in my area, which is sad, as each household uses between 2 and 12 of them every year. So, I started to rack my brain on what could be done to prevent this landfill filler.
Not an option. Though while saving on anything the easiest way is to go without, the air filter is required for the proper function of the HVAC unit - the filter prevents larger and medium particles from reaching the inner workings of the machine, where they could clog and damage moving parts, and clogged filters can overheat or freeze HVAC equipment. So, no going without one and no leaving in the original.
Many manufacturers recommend changing the filter every 30 days. This number was reached, in my opinion, by the manufacturers finding the worst case scenario and preventing it from affecting their machine. Worst case scenario for an HVAC filter is a home with lots of furry pets, smokers, cooking, interior construction or dust-creating hobbies, constant carpets/vacuuming, and dirty ducts or higher-than-normal operation of the HVAC machines themselves. These factors all effect how fast particles in the air accumulate on the filter. Too many particles holding onto the filter and the filter starts to restrict the air flow the machines need to continue working well.
So, to avoid the recommended changing of every 30 days, and perhaps stretch the 90 day requirement, you should avoid the worst case scenarios. These tips will also improve your indoor air quality, as well as save you in other ways:
- Don't allow smoking inside (and quit if you really want to save something).
- Consider less-furry breeds of pets , and consider shaving (when temperature appropriate) the furry pets you have.
- Brush your animals outside regularly.
- Turn on the hood fan when cooking over the stove.
- Vacuum often to capture particles and remove them (and consider getting a HEPA filter vacuum if you have allergies, as vacuuming does put more dust up in the air for short periods of time).
- Perform dust-creating activities in an open air environment
- Use dust-catching sheets and tarps during construction
- Have ducts cleaned regularly
- Ensure you install the filter correctly, and it fits properly
- Have an efficiency expert look at your furnace and A/C units, and have regular maintenance done on machinery to prevent over-working.
- Keep your house colder in cold weather and warmer in warm to run machinery less.
There is always the debate on whether 'blowing' out an air filter allows it to function longer. I would say that if you have animals or a high amount of dust, taking a filter outside and blowing air through it from a good distance away and from the opposite direction as airflow would only help it function better, even if it doesn't make it last longer. Slight dust build up actually helps some filters, as the dust makes the holes smaller for the air to go through. Too much dust/hair, though, and the holes plug, starving the machinery for air. Too hard of compressed air being blown on a filter can widen and damage the size of the holes, preventing their ability to trap dust. So, even if the filter still needs replacing every 90 days, a light and gentle 'blow out' can help its performance along.
Mind you, the really, really expensive filters that say they can trap .3 micron particles also clog up faster than the regular filters, so need replacing more often. It has been argued, and I think well, that thinking of your furnace as an air-purifying system is a silly notion. First, the HVAC doesn't run all the time, so you are still breathing in particles the other 75% to 90% of the time inside. Second, the air intake vents with filters are rarely located where the worst polluted air is (kitchen, baths and animal areas). Third, the filter is designed to prevent the worst of the thick dust/particles from reaching the machine, but the machine has other openings and small gaps that are sucking up particles and sending them down the ductwork (unless you found that efficiency expert to fix that problem). So, cleaning the ducts regularly would do more for helping air quality than just a filter could hope for. Unless you really feel the need for them or need all the air quality help you can get (they do trap what they catch, which can be a lot), expensive filters aren't the most effective way to improve air quality in your home.
Fresh Air Club, who sell filters by mail to you on a schedule, accept the return your old filter and recycle it, and supposedly plant a tree for every returned/recycled filter they receive. Their pricing doesn't seem too expensive for the service, when you figure they are selling the higher-efficiency filters, which are more when bought in the store, anyway. With an 'every-90-day' scheduled purchase of a single filter costing you $19.95 (additional filters $15.95 each), it is shipped free, where you then have a pre-paid shipping label and the box to send back your old filter for recycling. So, $80 a year in filters, but you know none of them are going in the landfill, and you help plant 4 trees. Not a super affordable option compared to the reusable filters, but if you can't do reusable (like me, where my lease specifies my filter changing) this is a nice, convenient and earth-friendly route.
So, now that you read all that, what are you going to do when it is time to change your filter?