How Often to Change Air Filters in Apartments

Apartments offer closed-in living spaces with limited outdoor areas. Consequently, this comes with fewer windows, fewer air vents, and no natural airflow. 

As a result, this setup can compromise the quality of air in the apartment. 

This poses a need to have an air conditioning system that provides free air circulation.

This article aims to highlight how frequently, why, and how to change your apartment air filters.

Why Do You Need to Change Your Air Filters?

Apartment owners should change their air filters before an occupant moves in. This is done as a regulation measure. 

However, your air filters also need to be changed from time to time. The frequency of changes depends on several factors.

Modern AC systems are equipped with technology that tells you if you need a filter replacement. 

Changing your apartment’s air filters also maximizes HVAC efficiency. This, in turn, reduces the costs of circulation.

Also read: How to Check the Air Quality in an Apartment? (6 Things to Check for) 

How Frequently Should You Change Your Air Filters?

The rule of thumb for routine air filter replacement is similar for a stand-alone house and an apartment.

Generally, most air filters have an operating lifespan of up to three months.

This is governed too by a set of conditions surrounding the apartment or within the apartment itself.

The frequency of changing your air filter can be dependent on the following conditions:

  • The type of pets living in the apartment
  • The number of people living in the apartment
  • The model of the air filter fitted in your ventilation shaft
  • The model of the AC system in the apartment
  • Air pollution levels around the apartment
  • The health conditions of the people living in the apartment
  • The quality of air inside the apartment
  • The quality of air outside the apartment
  • Habits like smoking

Health Conditions of Your Household

If you suffer from mild to moderate allergies, you may need to change your air filters quite often.

If your budget allows, you should change the air filter to one of superior quality.

Air Filter Model

The air filter model influences the frequency of change and is contained in the manufacturer’s specifications.

Most manufacturers recommend that you consider changing every one to three months for basic 1″- 3″.

Air Pollution Around the Apartment

Unlike stand-alone homes that have only one unit, apartments have many units under one extensive system of vents. This makes it easy for air filters to get dirty fast.

When the apartment is located in an area with around industries, it often dirties the air filters.

Because of this reason, the frequency of changing your air filters decreases to every 45 days.

Number of Pets In Your Household

A household having pets means having more loose fur flying around. They sometimes get sucked in by the air conditioner and get stuck on the filter.

When you have pets, you are bound to get a filter replacement quite often. For example, you are recommended to change your air filter every 60 days when you own one cat or dog. 

This number trickles down, of course, when you have a higher number of pets, typically 20-45 days.

Type of Air Filter

Two types of air filters can come with your apartment. They include the standard AC air filter and a furnace air filter.

A standard air filter removes particulate matter in the air that circulates through the entire building. A furnace filter is a removable filter within a furnace unit. 

The replacement of air filters for AC systems depends on the conditions mentioned above. While the conditions apply for furnace and AC air filters, others govern how frequently you need to replace your furnace air filters.

Generally, the cost of repairing furnace systems in apartments is very steep. That is why it is imperative to maintain them in tip-top shape by regularly changing their filters. 

During winter, the humidity of the surrounding area of the apartment tends to be relatively high. This means that the filter can sometimes be susceptible to moisture damages. 

This means that they may have to be changed more frequently. 

They also need to be checked for dust more often to avoid clogging. This clogging often leads to heat loss and inefficiencies in the system.

The Climate of the Area Surrounding the Apartment

Apartments in a mild environment tend to only use the AC or furnace for a few hours per day. This climate buys you even more time before you can replace one filter. 

You could potentially last a whole season or even up to an entire year with just one filter.

If your apartment is in a relatively cold climate, you will have to run your HVAC system for more extended periods in a day. 

In addition, you will have to replace your filters every few weeks (primarily if you use fiberglass filters).

The Size of Your Apartment Unit

Smaller housing units in apartments require the HVAC system to pump in a small amount of air to make the exact change in temperature.

This means that you get to replace your air filter less often. 

However, there is a catch to this.

If you get a minor system only means it comes with a smaller filter which is a combination that gives the same frequency of change for bigger units.

How to Tell When to Replace Your Air Filter

All the air coming from the furnace or an AC system passes through the filter before getting to your apartment.

The existence of any inconsistencies in the supply of air should denote an urgent need to change your air filters. 

Some of the tells tell signs that you need to change your filters include:

Frequent Malfunctions

Plenty of times, the control panel available in the apartment comes with a troubleshooting system. This will display a warning sign telling you to change your filter. 

You can also know it’s time to change your filter when your HVAC system parts start to break down due to clogged filters.

Poor Air Circulation

When the air circulation worsens than its normal optimum condition, this is brought about by reduced airflow within the system itself, causing a strain on the fans. 

You can tell that the filter is clogged when you start hearing a considerable reduction in airflow within the system compartment inside your apartment.

Some of the undesired particulate materials inside the house are still present while the HVAC system is on.

You may also feel the air inside the apartment is still stuffy after hours or running the system.

Also read: How to Create Positive Air Pressure in an Apartment?

Cold Air

When the air inside the apartment is still cold, yet the furnace system is running.

Clogged filters tend to absorb the heat supplied by the system; hence should be changed.

Changing clogged filters ensures that heat provided by the HVAC system reaches the apartment making the system efficient.

Rise In Power Bills

You can also tell that your filters are not clogged when you notice a sudden rise in your power bills under the same operating conditions. 

Since the system works harder to push air into your apartment, it requires a lot of power, translating to inflated power bills.

Also read: 12 Easy Ways to Save On Heating Costs in an Apartment

How to Locate Your Air Filters

Most people don’t know where to begin when attempting to change air filters on their own.

Only a fraction of people living in apartments vary them on their own.

 It is essential to know that most HVAC systems are located either in the closet.

AC Air Filters

They are challenging to locate since they could be placed anywhere. Most AC systems with a single central air return register would have it located within this compartment. 

These registers are normally located in hallways or along staircases. AC systems with multiple smaller return registers have the air filter located at the front of the air handler.

Furnace Air Filters

Furnace air filters are located in the blower, although this is dependent on the installation of the furnace. 

You are likely to find your filter on the lower vent of a vertical HVAC unit with upward flowing air and on the upper vent with downward flowing air.

You can also find the filters on the intake side of a horizontal unit.

Steps for Changing Your Air Filter

Changing your air filter is a simple task. You have to:

  1. Turn off the power supply to your HVAC system.
  2. Take off the register cover.
  3. Remove the old filter but be careful to take note of the direction of airflow.
  4. Put the new filter in the order indicated by the manufacturer.
  5. Put back the register cover.


The quality of air in your apartment can improve the general comfort of staying in the apartment. Hence, air circulation by AC systems becomes fundamental in achieving better living. 

Therefore filters should be replaced regularly to ensure that air circulation is at its utmost performance.

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