What’s black and brown and grey all over? 

Your HVAC system’s dirty air filter.

All heating and cooling systems have them. When first installed, they are white and pristine, but they quickly turn dingy. Air filters play an important role: They clean the dirt and dust that would otherwise grime up your air conditioning or heating system. But many people forget that the air filters themselves need to be cleaned and replaced about once a month. If not, that nasty dirt and dust will begin to build up in your HVAC units, too. Too much build-up and your system will become inefficient and eventually shut down.

How to Change an Air Filter
First things first: You have to locate the air filter in order to change it out. This could be tricky as there are a couple of places it could be hiding. Here’s a list of common places you might find your filter:

  • Behind the return air grill
  • In a compartment above or below your HVAC unit
  • Near the blower compartment or return air duct
  • Behind a panel marked “Filter”

If you have trouble finding your air filter, a call to your HVAC specialist might be in order. In fact, heating and air conditioning professionals can quickly and easily change out your air filters for you, or even teach you how to do it yourself. 

First Step: Power Off
Now, this may seem like common sense, but if it’s your first time changing an air filter, it’s a step easily forgotten that could be detrimental in more ways than one. Turn off that power, and save your machine (and possibly your body).

Second Step: Out with the Old Filter
Slide the filter out of its frame and look it over. If it still looks clean and free of debris, no change needed. Slide it back in and re-check in a month. If it’s been a while since you’ve checked, it’s probably embedded with dust and grime.

Third Step: In with the New Filter
If you’re lucky enough to have a reusable filter, clean it and re-insert it in the same way you pulled it out. If it’s disposable, throw it in the trash and replace it with a clean one. Follow the instructions on the HVAC unit: There may be arrows directing which way your filter should face.
Now that you’ve changed your air filter, you can sit back and rest easy knowing that the air your unit is circulating is clean, and you’ve extended the life of your unit.