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Why Does My Air Filter Get Dirty So Fast?

Inexpensive and lightweight, your HVAC system’s air filter is one of its most important parts. Without an air filter, what would stop the onslaught of pet dander, dirt, and dust from circulating throughout your home? HVAC professionals recommend replacing the air filter every few months. What if your air filter is always so dirty by the time you go to change it? Discover the following eight reasons why your air filter could be getting dirty more quickly than it should be.

You’re Buying Low-Quality Air Filters

home air filter

Image via Flickr by HomeSpot HQ

The quality of the air filter you’re buying may be contributing to how quickly your air filter gets dirty. While you think you may be saving money by buying a cheap air filter, the actual filter you’re getting tends to be low quality. As a result, these air filters have a shorter life span than high-quality ones.

Consider a standard fiberglass air filter. These air filters are relatively inexpensive, but they are designed to last for only 30 days of use. High-quality air filters, however, cost more but are manufactured to last more than 90 days. Pleated filters are generally more efficient at capturing particles than flat filters. Their greater surface area increases their efficiency without decreasing airflow.

Your Home’s Ductwork Has Leaks

Leaks in your home’s return ductwork attract dirt and dust from unconditioned spaces in your home, such as an attic or a crawl space. This accumulation of debris eventually makes its way to your air filter where excess buildup can occur.

In addition to causing excessive debris accumulation on your air filter, leaks in your home’s ductwork can also contribute to high energy bills and difficulty keeping your home comfortable. According to Energy Star, 20% to 30% of the air that moves through a home’s ductwork is lost due to holes, leaks, or poorly connected ducts. If you suspect that leaky ductwork is a problem, contact an HVAC technician for an inspection of your ductwork.

Your Home Contains a High Amount of Contaminants

You take pride in keeping your home clean, and you think you’re doing a good job with your regular cleaning routine. However, if your air filter continues to get dirty rapidly, you may have more contaminants in your home than you probably realize.

Pet dander, soot, and airborne particles from aerosol sprays are some of the many examples of debris that can be present in the air inside your home. Home renovations also can contribute to an excessive amount of contaminants in your indoor air. If you’re regularly dealing with a high amount of contaminants in your home, you may want to consider having a whole-home air cleaner installed. An HVAC technician can discuss the benefits of a whole-home air cleaner with you.

Your Thermostat’s Fan Setting Is Turned On

If you take some time to study the settings on your thermostat, you’ll probably discover two fan settings: Auto and On. If you set your HVAC system’s fan to the On setting, the fan will run constantly, even when your air conditioning system’s cooling cycle is not operating. As a result, the air filter will be constantly receiving air passing over it, which increases the opportunities for it to collect airborne particles.

Operating your system in the fan mode for long periods of time can cause significant wear on the air filter. Check your thermostat settings and be sure the fan is turned to the Auto setting.

Your Home Has an Excess Amount of Soot in the Air

burning candle

Image via Unsplash by andresuran

You might associate soot with your home’s fireplace and chimney, but soot present in the indoor air can come from a source you least expect — burning candles.

When candles burn, they produce a compound called soot. If you regularly burn candles in your home, you increase the amount of soot present in the air. Over time, this soot can accumulate on your HVAC system’s air filter. The good news is that you don’t have to give up your candles to reduce the soot.

When buying candles, choose ones that are free of artificial dyes and scents. Soy candles are naturally odorless and do not produce soot; beeswax candles emit a natural honey scent. Trim wicks to a quarter inch in length before lighting the candles. The longer the wick, the longer the flame, and the more soot that will be produced when the candles burn.

Your Home’s Return Vents Have Dirt Near Them

Dirt and dust near your home’s return vents can build up quickly. If you don’t eliminate this buildup, the dirt will be pulled into your home’s ductwork and eventually collect on the air filter. You can avoid this problem by regularly cleaning the areas around the return vents. Remove dirt and dust accumulations with a vacuum cleaner or a wet cloth.

Your Area Is Experiencing Hotter or Colder Temperatures

The amount of debris and particle buildup on your home’s air filter is directly related to how much air your home’s air conditioner or heater is cycling through the system. When outdoor temperatures are hotter or colder than usual, your HVAC system will run more often to keep your home at the comfortable temperature you want inside. As a result, air passes over the air filter more frequently, which, in turn, leads to greater accumulations of debris and dirt on the air filter.

You May Have Biological Growth Present in Your Home

Besides dirt and dust, the black deposits you see on your air filter could be signs of biological growth. If your home’s ductwork has a leak or a clog, moisture could build up inside the ductwork, which can encourage biological growth to develop. As a result, particles can travel throughout your HVAC system, eventually settling on the air filter.

If you suspect the accumulations on your air filter are the result of biological growth, contact an HVAC technician right away. Identifying the source of the biological growth is key to eliminating it before it does more harm.

Dahme Mechanical Industries Inc. is committed to ensuring your health, comfort, and safety. Our employees possess certifications from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and we’re pleased to serve the suburban Chicagoland area as well as Cook and DuPage counties. To learn more about our residential heating and air conditioning services or to schedule an appointment to have one of our technicians examine your home’s HVAC system, give us a call at 847-610-6846.