We all would like to think we spend our hard earned money wisely. We put time and effort into researching products and services to make sure we are getting the best value for our dollar, but good value does not always mean buying the cheapest. Sometimes we can spend a little more and get more bang for our buck.
It’s just like spending $10-$20 on a 1-inch thick high efficiency pleated furnace filter. If I spend the extra money and take care of my furnace, it will take care of me. Right? Most of the time, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, you could be doing your furnace harm and reducing the indoor air quality in your home.
When I do an audit on a home or business, I hate to see those high efficiency pleated filters in a furnace. Truthfully, if the furnace is operating when I walk down the basement stairs, I can tell by the sound of the furnace if one of those system killers is installed in the furnace. If you talk to any respectable HVAC technician, that is not just a box changer, they will tell you that you should not hear air movement when your furnace is on. Now that does not mean you cannot hear any air flowing at all. When the furnace comes on, the noise should not get your attention when the system turns on. If you hear excessive noise from air flow, you have a restricted airflow problem.
Here is an experiment you can do. With a new air filter installed and the furnace running, pay attention to the sound it is making. Slowly pull the air filter completely out of the filter slot. This should take about five to 10 seconds. Notice the change in the sound of the furnace while you are pulling the filter out. If your filter is too restrictive, then the sound will change considerably as if the air is flowing much better as you pull the filter out. If the filter is sized correctly, the sound should not change much. If it does, your new air filter is too restrictive and is only going to get more restrictive the dirtier if gets. Yes, that high dollar pleated air filter you are so proud of is costing you money by reducing the efficiency of your HVAC system – in a big way! But the bad news doesn’t stop there.
Now that you have done our little experiment, the next thing is to turn off the furnace and remove the front cover to access the blower compartment. Take a flashlight and look in and around the bottom of your furnace where the blower is located. It should be as clean as the day it was installed. If not, unfiltered air is getting past your air filter. This is where the real problem is. Unfiltered air getting into the furnace over time will cause your blower wheel to get dirty and not to move the air it once did. The a-coil for the air conditioning, where 100 percent of the air flows through year round, becomes the filter. This dramatically reduces the efficiency of any heating or cooling system. It will cost between $400-$600 to remove and properly clean the blower wheel and the a-coil. Some companies will try to talk you into putting that money toward a new system. And it will happen again, if you continue to use those expensive filters! Stop the madness!!!
The reason these filters can be bad for your furnace, and the cause for poor indoor air quality, is because the filter rack for your furnace was not sized for those restrictive air filters. They do a good job of filtering air, but you would need a filter twice the size to not restrict airflow. If the air cannot go through the filter, it will go around it because of the high pressure caused by the filter. A good fix is to have your HVAC company install a Box Media filter assembly. The filters are about four to five inches wide, cost about $25 and normally need to be replaced only once a year, and they do an excellent job of filtering the air without being restrictive.