Leaving Your Filter in Place Can Make Your Home’s Air Worse

Woman with Allergies

Greetings everyone! I get plenty busy during fall because this is the season when I look down my long list of topics to help our customers prepare for the winter. Dogs have “winter prep” pretty easy because we come equipped with a nice fur coat. People have a touch more work to do, such as having their furnaces professionally tuned-up and taking care of spots where their homes can lose heat easily.

In all this hustle before winter weather, people (and this includes you, dear reader) may forget one simple task for their HVAC system—changing the air filter for a new one. I talk about changing the air filter plenty of times on my blog. Usually, I focus on how routine air filter changes help the HVAC system perform at higher energy efficiency and provide better levels of heating and cooling. Today, I’m turning to a side-effect of a clogged filter people may not realize: it can make a home’s indoor air quality worse!

“But that air filter doesn’t have anything do with air quality. You said so, Olive!”

I’m glad you’re reading my blogs! It’s true that the HVAC cabinet air filter isn’t there to boost indoor air quality. You need specialized filters and air purifiers for that task. But while the HVAC filter can’t do much to improve air quality, it can make it worse if the filter becomes clogged. If you forgot to change the filter for a new one during the summer, you may start the winter season with the filter already congested enough that it will lower air quality.

“How does it make my home’s air worse?”

There are a few reasons. The first one is that when a filter is heavily clogged, it can no longer do one of its most important jobs which is stopping dust and debris from getting inside the HVAC cabinet. The blower fan continually draws air from the return ducts through the filter. When the filter is clogged, it will start to bend under the pressure. Although it’s unlikely the filter will collapse and fall into the blower (although, yes, this can happen), the distortion is enough to create gaps at the sides where dust and debris will get into the cabinet. This is not only bad news for the components of the furnace and air conditioner, it means more dust, lint, and debris circulating through the house.

There’s a worse possibility: mold. A thick clump of lint and dust is prime ground for mold to develop. Unfortunately, the high humidity levels in East Tennessee make it easy for mold to start growing. Mold can send toxic spores into a house, which is terrible for allergy and asthma sufferers. These spores can even harm people who don’t have respiratory problems.

Changing the air filter routinely (every 1 to 6 months, depending on filter strength; see the video I linked to above) prevents these indoor air quality (IAQ) problems. If you’re still experiencing poor air quality, our Russell & Abbott team provides excellent options for improving indoor air quality in Knoxville, TN, and throughout our service area, such as air filtration and purification systems.

Stay cool and allergy-free,


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