The Quick and Dirty: How often should you change or clean your HVAC filters?

August 1, 2020

Did you know that one of the easiest ways to kill your HVAC system—or at least make it run inefficiently—is by neglecting your filters? Yep. Your HVAC system will last longer if you just replace them on schedule or keep them clean. So, how often should you change or clean your HVAC filters?

Disposable Filters

1-inch filters

If your HVAC system has 1-inch filters, they need to be checked and/or replaced every 90 days at minimum. In fact, once a month is best. (But we know that isn’t always realistic.) When you’re shopping for replacements, choose a pleated filter.

4-inch filters

If your HVAC system has 4-inch filters, you don’t have to replace them quite as often. We recommend that you check and/or replace the filter twice a year, minimum. If you replace them once a quarter? All the better.

Washable Metal Air Filters

If you don’t clean your reusable filters, they’ll cause your system to lose efficiency over time. The more often you clean your filters, the better your results will be. Here’s how to clean them:

Honeywell Electronic Air Cleaners


Check your prefilters every one or two months and use the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to clean off the lint. If residue is sticky or greasy, soak it in a tub of water or rinse with a garden hose. Don’t wash your prefilter in the dishwasher.


For quick cleanings, wipe down the ionizer wires with a damp cloth whenever you clean the prefilter. A full cleaning can be done once a year during your yearly maintenance call. Or you can deep clean them yourself by:

  • Soaking the cells in a tub of hot, soapy water. Soak until the water cools, then agitate and rinse.
  • Spray with Simple Green and leave it soak, then rinse and let it air dry before returning it to your system.
  • Putting cells through the dishwasher. This is an option if your dishwasher has a stainless steel liner. (The cells will discolor a plastic liner.) You must use a liquid or pod detergent, and not a granulated one. Granules get stuck in the cells and could harm them.

Trane CleanEffects Whole House Filtration

The Trane system will tell you when it needs to be cleaned, but in general, you should vacuum the filter every one to three months. Clean more frequently if you suffer from allergies, smoke, or have furry pets. Trane recommends that a technician do a deeper cleaning of additional components. For more information watch this Trane video on CleanEffects cleaning methods.

Add-on filtration

Some homeowners have an add-on device that goes into the ductwork that works in conjunction with existing filters to add an extra layer of filtration. This device helps kill organic materials to clean the air in your home and help rid it of bacterias and viruses—as long as it’s clean. You can buy these from your HVAC dealer.

Photo Credit to One Beautifull Life Photo

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