Have you ever wondered what all the gunk is that builds up on the filter you change out of your furnace? Some of the things you may have guessed, but others might make you scratch your head and encourage you to change your filters more frequently on principal alone. These are some of the more common causes of clogged filters, and why it's important to change them regularly.
The first and most obvious contaminant is dust, which is present in all houses. There is no such thing as a dust-free home, even if you take the time to dust every day. With that in mind, it makes sense that your air vents will collect it, and it will get stuck in the filters. Dust is typically made up of dead skin cells, dirt, pollen and other such environmental materials.
Believe it or not, your hair gets caught up in your vents and travels to the air filter. The more often you vacuum, the less you’ll see your hair end up in the filter. Still, some of it will inevitably sneak its way through. This is just as likely whether you have short or long hair, it may just clog up faster if you have long hair that tends to shed easily.
Even more common than your hair, your pet’s hair will clog up your vent filter in no time at all. Cats and dogs shed no matter how much you keep up with brushing their fur. If you have pets, you might want to check your filters more frequently to see if they need replacement. Their fur will quickly take over your ventilation system, and add a layer of fuzz to the filters. Imagine the vent on your dryer and how quickly that gets filled with lint. You usually have to empty that between each load. Just be glad you don’t have to change out your furnace filter every other day.
You may not have guessed this one, but bacteria could be living in your vent filters. Warm air aids the growth of bacteria. Your furnace does not typically get hot enough to kill the bacteria, but often does get warm enough to act as an incubator. Keep your family healthy by changing out your filters as often as they need replacement. Don’t let the dirty filters lie around either. Throw them away immediately so the bacteria won’t spread throughout the house. Always be sure to wash your hands after handling a dirty filter, as well.
Just like bacteria and the pollen in dust, allergens can get trapped in your vent filters as well. In fact, some people have an allergy to dust. Once the filter is filled with all of the above, including allergens, these particles will either prevent the air from properly flowing through your house or else they might start regularly circulating through your air if your filter is so old that it’s starting to deteriorate. There are special filters that are made for those with more severe allergies, which tend to filter the air more thoroughly than others. However, be aware that sometimes these need to be changed more frequently in order to function at their peak level of proficiency.
Mold grows best in damp, warm spaces, which makes your furnace an ideal haven. It is certainly warm, and many people suggest connecting your humidifier to your furnace to help spread the needed moisture throughout your house during the dry cold of winter, thereby adding the other element of dampness to the equation. Dampness and warmth are a dangerous combination as mold spores can be deadly to one with mold allergies. Those mold spores can easily end up in your vents, and only some of them will make it to the filter.
Dangers of Not Changing Your Furnace Filter
With all of these particles lurking in your furnace filter, it’s no wonder that there are dangers that go hand in hand with not changing it on a regular basis. Since your furnace’s main function is to distribute fresh air throughout your home, it would be best to maintain this valuable piece of equipment. Clogged filters make the furnace work overtime in order to make up for the lack of airflow due to the clogged filter, causing stress on the furnace. This can cause cracks that may lead to gas leaks, which are incredibly dangerous for everyone in your home.
No matter how your filters look when you change them, it's not a chore that's ever wise to skip. Being mindful of the elements that get trapped there may just help you remember to make that swap every few months. If you notice your filter needs changing a lot more frequently than you had expected, try vacuuming a few times more each month to try to cut down on the extra particles that are floating in the air.