Where is My HVAC Filter?

Where is my HVAC air filter?

Where is my HVAC air filter?

Yay! You’re on the right track by wanting to change your air filter! This simple task is the first step to improving the air quality in your home and making your HVAC system run more efficiently. By working to keep your air filters clean, you can help reduce the amount of dust, pollen, and other particles that circulate through your home. Changing your HVAC filter can not only improve your indoor air quality, but it can also help reduce wear and tear on your HVAC system, leading to lower energy costs. But where is my HVAC filter located? So don’t hesitate – go find that air filter!

Finding Your HVAC Filter

The next step is finding the air filter. It may be difficult to locate on some HVAC systems, but you can find it in the return air duct. Or, in layman’s terms, that big metal grate on your wall, floor, ceiling, or utility closet door. Return air ducts can be just about anywhere. But usually, they are centrally located in the house.

Two-story houses may have one upstairs and another downstairs. In that case, they both need to be changed.

After Finding Your HVAC Filter

Once you’ve found the air filter, simply remove it and replace it with a new one. Depending on your filter type, you may need to do this every month or two. A general rule is to change your filter every 90 days, but I always tell people if the HVAC filter isn’t perfectly white, it’s time to change it. That’s the air you’re breathing! By taking this simple step, you can help improve the air quality in your home and extend the life of your HVAC system.

The return air duct or blower compartment in your HVAC system is responsible for circulating air throughout your home. Unlike the smaller vents around your home, the return air duct pulls in the air from your home and sends it to your HVAC unit to be heated or cooled.

Most Common Locations HVAC Filters

Dirty Air FilterDepending on the type of HVAC system, the filter’s location will vary. Here are some of the most common locations for HVAC air filters:

  • Horizontal units: These units are frequently located in attics, basements, or garages. The filter usually fits in a slot on the air return side of the unit.
  • Vertical units: These units are often located in utility closets or crawl spaces. The filter is typically located behind a grille on the bottom or front of the unit.
  • Furnaces: Most furnaces have a dedicated compartment for the air filter, which is usually located near the blower motor.
  • Mini-Splits: Some houses have an air conditioning head in each room. Some are wall-mounted, and some are ceiling-mounted. Check those individual units for the air filters.

So, good on you for wondering where your HVAC filter is! The location of air return ducts can be important when considering installing a new HVAC system. That’s why they tend to be located in a hallway near the thermostat.

The primary purpose of ductwork is to move air throughout the house. The air return duct is responsible for bringing stale air back to the furnace or air conditioner to be filtered and recirculated. To function properly, the air return duct must be large enough to allow sufficient airflow. It is also important that the duct be located in a central location so it can draw air from all parts of the house. Unfortunately, finding air return ducts can be a bit like a scavenger hunt. They are often hidden behind doors or in other hard-to-reach places. But it’s worth the effort to walk around your entire house, looking high and low. Be sure to check behind doors and other hidden places so you don’t miss one. With a little patience, you should be able to find all of your home’s air return ducts.

Capacitors and Your HVAC System


As we approach the long hot summer, I wanted to start a series of blogs on common parts of your HVAC system that break down. I also want to share some other common parts that when installed or added on to your system will keep your family and house safer, your system running longer and more efficiently, and improve the indoor air quality so everyone in your home can breathe easier.

If your air conditioner or heater is making a buzzing or humming noise, it’s a sign that your capacitor levels are low.  They can’t provide the necessary electricity to make the HVAC system work properly.

Many times each year, I am called out to a house where the system is making a buzzing or humming noise. This makes me immediately think a motor is stuck or the capacitor for that motor has gone bad. A capacitor is a storage bucket of electrons that helps regulate the electricity going to the motor it supports; a compressor, a condenser fan motor, a furnace or air handler’s blower motor, and sometimes and inducer motor. When the capacitor gets low on charge, three things can happen. The motor can run at higher amps, causing the motor to prematurely burn out. The motor can begin to run backward.  This can cause a lot to go wrong on your AC or heating system. Lastly, the motor can just stop running altogether.

Fox Family Heating and Air can help keep an eye on your capacitor levels during our bi-annual precision tune-ups.

People ask me all the time, “How long is a capacitor supposed to last? A capacitor usually lasts five to ten years.  If you saw some of the 20 and 25-year-old capacitors found in old GE systems, you’d find them still working. There is a specifically sized capacitor for your system. It comes from the factory at that specific charge of electrons in it. The label on the capacitor will specify when that capacitor is considered below factory specs. Sometimes it’s 5%, 6% or 10%. Well, this capacitor is constantly giving itself up for the motor it supports. As your capacitor loses power little by little every year, it will finally reach its factory low point. At that point, it’s time to change your capacitor.

Changing the capacitor when it is needed will help extend the life of your heating and air conditioning system. Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning can help keep an eye on your capacitor levels by checking them out during our bi-annual precision tune-ups. Regular maintenance on your air conditioning system will not only reduce emergency service calls at the most crucial times of the year but will give you peace of mind knowing your system has been checked by a professional twice a year.

Please call Greg Fox at Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning to schedule your Precision Tune-up and see how your capacitors are performing at 916-877-1577.

One more thing:  don’t forget to change your filter every two months!

Trane CleanEffects™ is By Far the Best Air Cleaner for Your Home

Trane CleanEffects™ is By Far the Best Air

If you’re looking for an indoor air quality product that’s super effective, efficient, and quiet, look no further than Trane CleanEffects™.

What’s the best air cleaner for my home?

Trane CleanEffects™ is by far the best air filter for your home. It’s an ingenious product that’s effective, efficient to operate all with a non-existent noise level.

The best air cleaner for your home provides not only air filtration but kills off dust, particulates, allergens, smoke, and viruses that are small enough to get through standard 1-inch and even 4-inch media filters that come with your heating and cooling system.  These items that contaminate the inside of your home can really affect your comfort levels.  New homes have even more potential to create these nuisances because they are sealed up much more than drafty homes of the past.

Trane CleanEffects™ and MERV Ratings

You may have heard about MERV ratings on filters you’ve bought in the past.  MERV is defined as how many particles of varying sizes can get onto your filter before failing to meet minimum air filtration standards.  So, what MERV rating does Trane CleanEffects™ have?  MERV evaluates only one aspect of air cleaning.  Particle capture.  Trane takes it to the next level with an Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) certification.  CleanEffects™ air cleaners are also recognized by Allergy Standards Limited (ASL) as the benchmark for air purification in your home.  These standards measure air purification based on medical and scientific research in health issues and indoor air quality.

How Trane CleanEffects™ Works

How does Trane CleanEffects™ work?  As air from your house enters your furnace or air handler, it is shot through your duct system and into each room through your vents on the ceiling or floor.  But before that air is distributed, it passes through the CleanEffects™. 

First, a pre-filter captures large particles, keeping the electrostatic field charger and collection cells cleaner, longer.  After the pre-filter, the electrostatic field charger creates positive and negative charges.  These help the particles adhere to the collection cells of the final filter.  This process is patented and effectively removes 99.98% of particles from your home. The final phase of the indoor air cleaner is the reusable collection cells. The incoming particles from the field charger are captured by precisely engineered cells.  This last filter can be cleaned with your vacuum cleaner once or twice a year to make them like new.

Clean Air Delivery Rate

The AAFA recognizes clean air delivery rate (CDR) as an accurate representation of an air cleaner’s performance because it measures how well the air is cleaned for the end-user.

Clean air delivery rate, which is the filter’s efficiency multiplied by the airflow rate, is recognized by the Federal Trade Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency as a fair and objective way to measure different types of air cleaners purchased by homeowners.  The number tells us the cubic feet per minute of clean air delivered for a typical 1500 square foot home.

Have you seen those little single room air cleaner stands? They have a clean air delivery rate of 10. The standard 1-inch filter for your HVAC system is 12.  Room HEPA filters have a delivery rate of 150.  A 4- or 5-inch pleated media filter delivers at a rate of 240 cubic feet per minute (cfm).  And while other whole-house electronic air cleaners have a rating of 660, Trane CleanEffects™ delivers an outstanding 1200 cfm.

How Effective is Trane CleanEffects™?

Trane’s CleanEffects™ removes up to 99.98% of allergens from your home by trapping particles as small as .1 micron in size. That’s 100 times more effective than a standard 1-inch filter.  This means Trane CleanEffects™ can reduce how often you’ll need to dust your home in half.  And it’s all been proven by experts at the Harvard School of Public Health.

A human hair is roughly 50—70 microns wide.  Pollen and ragweed that cause allergies and breathing problems are around 17 to 50 microns.  Most viruses like COVID-19 and flu are commonly around .3 microns.  Trane CleanEffects™ captures particles as small as .1 micron and does it without restricting the air to your HVAC system.  This makes it extremely effective at removing spores, pollen, dander, skin flakes, smoke, dirt, dust, bacteria, mold, spores, and even viruses from your home.  It prevents them from entering your lungs and bloodstream through your nose, which makes it harder to breathe or cause you to get sick.

The ifD Corona Field

There’s also a powerful, patented ifD electrostatic corona field these particles enter after the pre-filter. It ruptures the fine layer of protein that encapsulates single-cell RNA and DNA, sterilizing them.  That electronic field causes particles to adhere to the CleanEffects™ air cleaner’s collection cells without clogging the filter.

Trane CleanEffects™ filters are 100% quiet too.  Many electronic air cleaners make an unpleasant buzzing noise, like a bug zapper.  Your new CleanEffect’s patented technology makes it as quiet as it is effective.

Does CleanEffects™ Emit Ozone?

Ozone is a naturally occurring element in our atmosphere.  When you’re just walking around town, background ozone levels are about two parts per million (PPM).  CleanEffects™, when operating at full capacity, was shown to add only three PPM to the air. The emission standards set by the FDA for all appliances is 50 PPM.  Trane’s output of ozone is way below the standard appliance, like toasters and space heaters.

Some people are very sensitive to ozone.  Trane has designed their air cleaner to emit levels of ozone well below standards that are set even for medical devices.  The power level of Trane CleanEffects™ can also be adjusted to further decrease ozone levels if needed.


Trane CleanEffects™ is by far the best air filter for your home.  The best air cleaner for your home provides not only air filtration, but kills off dust, particulates, allergens, smoke, and viruses.  If you’re looking for an indoor air quality product that super effective, efficient, and quiet, look no further than Trane CleanEffects™.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and we’ll see you on the next blog topic.

Can a MERV 13 Air Filter Harm My HVAC System?

MERV 13 air filter

Filtration standards keep increasing as today’s building and energy codes update their requirements every three years.  The 2019 codes that went into effect on January 1st, 2020, mandate that new construction homes have HVAC systems that use MERV 13 air filters.  What is MERV?  Simply put, it’s the size of the pores in your air filters you change out every three months or so.  

To give you an example, when you go down the aisle where the filters are at the hardware store, you see a relatively wide selection of filters.  Some have a see-through green mesh, some have pleated white paper-like filters, and other premium filters incorporate elements like charcoal to absorb odors, etc.  Typically the more expensive these filters get, the higher the MERV rating because the ability to catch smaller particles increases with more restriction (smaller holes for the air to pass through).

MERV 13 Air Filters Side Effects

So, great, I’ve always wanted my indoor air quality to be better, so thankfully, the requirements for air filters have increased!  There will be fewer particles in the air for my family and me to breathe in.  Yes, you will have that, but what are the side effects that come along with increasing the restrictions through your air filters? 

First, you’re increasing resistance to the airflow to your system, which is trying to throw a certain amount of air to all of your rooms.  That doesn’t sound good. The system will try harder to throw that air into your duct system and on to your room.  That really affects the airflow in your duct system.  It also increases energy usage since the motor delivering the air has to ramp up even more to do its job. 

MERV 13 Air Filters Can Lead to Frozen Cold Coils

Another unintended effect of this lowered airflow is on the refrigeration side.  Your air conditioner has a hot coil outside, the condenser, and a cold coil at the air handler inside.  This cold coil has a specific preferred operating temperature.  That temperature is based on a certain amount of warm air flowing across that coil and the refrigerant running through the copper tubing of that coil.  With a higher MERV filter reducing the airflow through this crucial part of the air conditioning system, the cold coil can eventually freeze up into an ice ball, restricting airflow altogether.  Without elaborating, this causes more expensive problems at the outdoor condenser coil.

A Hot Heat Exchanger and Tubing

In the heating season, the firebox or heat exchanger can overheat so much that it cracks open.  The firebox is a hollow metal cabinet or set of tubes that keep the spent gasses from the flame inside of it.  The heat carried inside the tubes or cabinet stays inside too.  The blower sends air across the hot heat exchanger sending the warmed air into the ducts that lead to your rooms. 

Just like the cold air conditioner coil, the heating season firebox also operates at a set temperature.  If the air moving across it slows down, the cabinet or tubing will heat up too much.  After thousands of times across the lifespan of your system, this process can diminish its lifespan.  It can also increase the chances that occupants of the house are exposed to gasses that are intended to remain inside the hot tubing.  If the tubing has cracks in it, then exposure is likely. 

Check With Your HVAC Expert

The fix to all of this is to make sure you have enough return air to the system.  If we choke the air to the system, we can end up with all kinds of problems.  If you’re going to start using a higher MERV filter, check with your local HVAC company and let them evaluate whether you have enough surface area in your return grilles.  

Check The Boxes

Good luck with your decision to use higher MERV filters in the future.  They certainly aren’t a bad thing.  Reducing the number of dirty particles for the air in your home is a very common request.  It’s just important to make sure the rest of your system is set up to handle the increased restriction the filters create.

Thanks so much for watching and we’ll see you on the next blog post.

Don’t miss our video related to this topic:

How Often Should I Change My Filter?

How often do you need to change the air filter

Today I am going to answer a question that comes up frequently on service calls I make. Usually, upon entering a house the first thing I ask is, “can you please show me where the furnace is…the air conditioner…the thermostat…and the air filter…?” Believe it or not, some people do not know where their air filter is. Sometimes this is because they just bought the house or just don’t know the filter is supposed to be changed. The single most important thing a homeowner can do to protect their heating and air conditioning system is to change or clean their filters when they are not perfectly white, or new anymore.

The most important thing you can do to protect your investment is to change your pleated filter every time it’s not perfectly white or anymore.  This usually is less than the recommendation of 90 days that it says on your filter, but rather about every month or two.

Air filters are usually located at the furnace in the garage or closet. If you don’t see your furnace in the garage or closet, chances are it’s located in the attic or under the house. In that case, the filter grille may be in the ceiling or low on the wall in the hallway. Either way, if you haven’t located your filter and are not aware of the components that make up your HVAC system, call Fox Family Heating and Air to come out to help you become familiar with it.  Your system is a major investment in your house or rental property and if left unmaintained, you may have some high repair bills in the near future.

So, a minute ago, you heard me say change or clean your filter every time it’s not perfectly white anymore. “But I have a 90-day filter!” you say. A lot of advice is out there on when is the right time to change the filter. Here in California and Sacramento Valley, the vast majority of homes have their filters located in the ceiling. As a homeowner, just looking up into the grille area where the filter is every week allows you the perfect chance to see what condition your filter is in. If it’s not as white as was when you first bought it, it’s time to change it. During the higher use seasons like winter and summer, this could be as often as once a month. Some houses can go for three months without getting their filter even slightly dirty. It’s just the nature of your house. Taller ceilings, cleaner houses, less dust being kicked up, hardwood floors vs. carpeted houses all influence the life of your filter.

I know it’s because I am an HVAC technician, but as I walk past my filter in the hallway, I’m always checking to see how clean it is.

You don’t want to be breathing that brown stuff on your filter right? Change that filter!

A clean filter is going to lead to better air to breathe for you and your family. You don’t want to be breathing that brown stuff that is stuck on your filter do you? Wash your permanent or lifetime washable filter or replace your fiberglass or paper filter often. Get the cheap filters too! I’m not interested in paying some big company ten or twenty bucks for one filter. We are just trying to stop the bigger particles of dust and debris from getting to our blower motor and evaporator coil so they don’t get clogged up and cause higher repair bills. I go to the local big-box store and buy a couple of three packs of filters for about $7.00 each. That’s $14.00 for all the filters I’m going to need for the year. If you have the filters on-hand and in the house or garage, you’re much more likely to change them out more frequently.

I recommend changing your filter every time it gets to the point where it’s not the same white color as when you bought it. This means during the busier seasons like winter and summer it’s going to be every month or two, and you may go four months without it getting dirty at all during the nicer seasons like spring and fall. So change your filters, save yourself some money by buying the cheaper filters, and have extras on hand for the entire year. This will save you repair costs down the road by not allowing the dust and dirt to get on your blower assembly and evaporator coil which can shut your system down.

Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning services the majority of the Sacramento Valley including Heating and Air Conditioning, HVAC or AC Service for Sacramento, Elk Grove, Roseville, Citrus Heights, Davis, Folsom, Rancho Cordova, Rocklin, Antelope, Arden Arcade, Auburn, Cameron Park, Carmichael, Diamond Springs, El Dorado Hills, Elverta, Fair Oaks, Florin, Foothill Farms, Foresthill, Georgetown, Gold River, Granite Bay, La Riviera, North Highlands, Orangevale, Parkway, South Sacramento, Pollock Pines, Rancho Murieta, Rio Linda, Rosemont, Shingle Springs, Vineyard, Wilton, Penryn, Loomis, Newcastle, Auburn Lake Trails, Garden Valley, Coloma, Plymouth, Amador City, Sutter Creek, Ione, West Sacramento. Call or text 916-877-1577 for more information.

4 AC Add-ons That Will Make Your Life Easier When it Gets Hot This Summer

4 air conditioner add-ons

Beat the Heat This Summer with Modern AC Enhancements

When it gets hot this summer, there are a few things that could make your system last longer, be safer for your house or your family, and just be plain old convenient for your home.  With today’s technology, your HVAC system doesn’t have to be so, well, old fashioned.  Here are a few add-ons to bring some life to your air conditioning system.

Wi-Fi Thermostat

Homes everywhere are still equipped with old fashioned thermostats that you have to turn on and off manually.  For the last several years, Wi-Fi thermostats like the Honeywell 9000 are making it much more convenient to turn on the AC.  You buy the thermostat for a couple of hundred dollars, put it on the wall in place of your old one, download the app, and enjoy the ease of operating your AC from the comfort of your Lazy Boy chair in the living room.  You can read more about these devices here.  Heck, as long as you have connectivity, you can change the temperature of your home from Puerto Rico!  This is a state-of-the-art AC enhancement.

Honeywell Wifi Thermostat
compressor start kit


Compressor start kits are one of the air conditioning add-ons I believe in with all of my heart.  We add these devices to your outdoor AC unit.  It connects to the high voltage side of the power circuit, so make sure a licensed technician does this work for you.  The compressor in your outdoor unit pumps the refrigerant in your system to create cold air for your home.  Next to your car engine, it’s the most challenging motor to get started in your home.  I know a compressor start assist kit will not only ease the initial start-up of the motor thousands of times every summer but will add years of life to one of the most expensive appliances in your home.

Condensate Safety Switch

Some people have an HVAC system where the “cold coil” is in the attic.  A myriad of errors can occur when your AC is operating that can cause a back-up of water or a clog, which eventually could overflow and send water down onto the sheetrock below it.  That’s your ceiling!  If you’ve ever had to repair a small portion of your ceiling because of damage, you know how hard it is to match the texture and paint.  And if it’s not right, it can be a big eyesore for the homeowner.

Say you could buy some sheetrock insurance for a couple of hundred dollars…. would you do it?  Then getting a condensate safety switch is the perfect air conditioning add-on for you. It’s a low voltage device that continually monitors the condensate level of your emergency drain pan in the attic.  It will shut down the system preventing more water from accumulating and will alert you to call your HVAC professional.  Yes, your AC won’t operate during the error, but you also won’t face possibly thousands of dollars’ worth of water damage to take care of, either.

Air Purification as an AC Enhancement

Everyone wants to breathe in nice clean air in their home.  The filter you change out every couple of months is keeping the big particles of air from entering the mechanical part of your HVAC system.  But it’s not going to be able to get rid of tiny single-cell viruses, multi-cell bacteria, mold, and spores that develop in many homes all around town.  Getting an air purification device is the AC enhancement that addresses this.  There are different technologies to choose from, but once you narrow it down to the one you want, I know you will be breathing much cleaner air in your home every day.
iWave air purifier

Get Started with Your Air Conditioning Add-Ons

If you’d like to have a conversation with us about any of these items for your AC system, click on the Book Your Online Appointment button at the top of the page to set up an appointment at your convenience.  I talk about these AC enhancements because I use them for my own.  I know they will add years of life to your system, be safer for your house, and simply be more convenient for your home.  We hope to hear from you soon!  Take care.

Don’t miss our video related to this topic:

Turning on the Furnace for the First Time Each Year

Turning on the Furnace for the First Time Each Year

What is that burning smell when turning on the furnace for the first time each year?

As the winter season approaches, a lot of you will turn on the furnace for the first time this year.  That can be a very intimidating situation for some people.  You may have just moved into your first apartment.  Or perhaps you’ve just moved into your new home this past summer.  The AC worked fine, but now it’s time to see how the furnace is going to work this winter.

Whether you walk over to the thermostat or turn it on manually, what’s that burning smell the first time you’re turning on the furnace for the year?  In this week’s blog, let’s break down the gas furnace, and some of the sounds and smells you get when it comes on for the first time each year.

About Turning on the Furnace

You should understand the nature of the furnace is to provide warm air for your home.  And it does that with a gas flame.  But that gas flame isn’t just flying around uncontrolled the way it does in a fireplace for example.  A very structured flame is sent into the furnace.  If the flame were to roll out or overheat the furnace, a series of safety switches will engage, turning off the furnace.

Whether you walk over to the thermostat or turn it on with your smartphone, the sounds and smells that you experience can be confusing.  That’s not how the air conditioner sounded when it came on, and that’s definitely not how the air conditioner smelled when it was working.

When the furnace gets turned on, the thermostat on the wall tells the furnace which is in your attic, your garage, or your closet in the hallway to initiate a sequence of events that will ultimately shoot a gas flame into the firebox, or heat exchanger.

Turning on the Furnace:  the Basic Parts

There are a few parts that come on before that flame starts to heat the home.  The thermostat tells the control board inside the furnace to come on.  The control board is the brains of the system that will control the following events.

The first motor to come on will be the inducer motor.

Not a large motor by any means, but it’s the one that gets rid of the fumes spent by the flame that warms your home.  The control board and a pressure switch acknowledge that the inducer has come on and is working properly.

The ignitor will come on next.

Usually, it’s a hot surface ignitor made of silicon carbide that glows red hot.  About 2500 degrees.  The timer on the control board then allows the gas valve to open up and pour a controlled amount of gas over the red-hot surface ignitor.

Creating the Flame

This creates the flame we were talking about earlier, that shoots into the metal firebox, which is better known as a heat exchanger to us technicians. A small flame sensor then verifies the flame is on and sends a signal to the board that everything is burning properly, and the system is safe to continue heating the home.

Blower Fan Comes On

If the flame sensor says everything is okay, the control board then tells the blower fan to come on.  The sequence is complete.  Warm air will then start flowing into the rooms until it gets to the desired temperature.

That whole sequence of events that happens takes about 1 minute from the time thermostat tells the furnace to start, to the time the blower turns on and gives you heat through your registers.

When the thermostat senses the room’s warm enough, it tells the control board to end the call for heating, which then cuts the flame.  Meanwhile, the blower stays on just long enough to cool the furnace down quite a bit, about 60 to 90 seconds.  This helps extend the life of the system.

So how does the heat exchanger work?  Well, it “exchanges heat” by keeping the flame and its fumes inside the metal box while a fan blows air over the outside of the metal.  The heat that comes off that metal and the air from the blower is then carried into your rooms where you feel the warm air.

What’s That Burning Smell?

Folks call in every fall when they’re turning on their furnace for the first time and say the system IS working but there’s a strange smell coming through their vents. Almost like a burning smell.  When we get out to their home and verify all the motors are working properly, we let them know something most people don’t know until it’s happened to them.

So what’s that smell the first time you turn on your furnace each season?  It’s just a fine layer of dust that’s settled onto the heat exchanger.  The dust from your house has made its way past the air filter and blower assembly to the metallic heat exchanger.  As the metal heats up, the dust burns off and creates that burnt smell.  It can happen the first few times you turn the system on, but after that, you shouldn’t get that burning smell any more.

If the smell bothers you, you can just open the doors or windows to your house and let it vent out that way for about fifteen minutes.  But rest assured it’s not carbon monoxide.  That odorless gas can only be picked up by a carbon monoxide detector.

Safety First

If you do turn your furnace on for the first time or ANY time this year and your home’s carbon monoxide detector does go off, don’t just remove the batteries.  Don’t treat it like it’s some nuisance alarm, either.  Go ahead and step outside of the home and call the Fire Department.  Let them come out to make sure everything is okay before going back inside.  It might cause a big show for everyone in the neighborhood, but who cares?  It’s your family’s life on the line.

If you don’t currently have a carbon monoxide detector on each floor and the main hallways of your house, now would be a good time to pick those up from your local hardware store.

About Detectors

Speaking of detectors in your homes – if you haven’t done so already this year, it’s time to change out the batteries in those detectors around your home.  Your local fire department usually will come out for free and help you replace those batteries if you have trouble reaching those detectors on your own.  If they won’t and you’re in our area, just provide the batteries and we’d be happy to come out and change them for you.  Otherwise, any handyman in your area would be up to the task.

As a reminder, the single-most-important-thing you can do to keep your furnace clean is to change those air filters.  If the system can’t breathe in because of a dirty air filter, then it won’t be able to breathe out for you at the supply registers in your rooms either.  Again, if you can’t do it because you’re elderly or physically unable to reach the filter, give us a call!

Remove Flammables Before Turning on the Furnace

Another bit of advice we’d like you to consider is to make sure there are no flammables around the furnace.  Remember, we said that the furnace is either in the attic, the closet, or the garage. These are common places to store items that tend to be forgotten over time.

A metal flue pipe that gets very hot when the furnace is turned on can be dangerous if left unattended.  Broomsticks, cardboard, newspapers, clothing, and other materials can scorch over time if they’re resting on the flue pipe.  Setting away from the furnace any flammable varnishes, lacquers, oils, and gasoline will help keep your home safe.

Don’t Wait to Turn on the Furnace

Although you might be nervous to turn your furnace on that first time every year, do it.  Turn it on when it’s still mild outside.  Maybe don’t wait for the first winter snap to hit before finding out your furnace doesn’t work.  If you do wait, you might find yourself at the end of a long line.  Other homeowners and property management companies may be requesting service at the same time you are.

Taking Care the Easy Way

If you don’t already have someone coming out to your house each year just to make sure everything is running safely for you and your family, we’d love to be the company that gets to do it for you.  Fox Family offers an easy way to automate this. You won’t even have to remember to call us. We take care of it all.

Your furnace runs better when it’s been cleaned and maintained, much like your car. Every Fall or Winter is a good time to get the required maintenance done on your heating system. Don’t have a desire to be on an automatic program? Call for a furnace tune-up. A typical cleaning lasts 45 minutes to an hour and a half. It’s usually about a 30 point checklist, but I’ll go into that on another post.

Turning on the Furnace: a Recap

The nature of a gas furnace is to use a controlled flame to warm your house.  It’s done in a VERY controlled way by a series of safety switches.  Any unexpected events within the furnace components tell the control board to shut down the unit.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and we’ll see you on the next blog post!

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What Happens if I Don’t Change the Air Filter for My Air Conditioner?

How often do you need to change the air filter

Do I Really Need to Change my HVAC Air Filter?

Most people know they need to change the air filter for their air conditioning system.  How often would say you need to change that air filter?  That’s what we are going to talk about this week on Fox Family Heating and Air.

The Air Filter Basics

Hi I’m Greg Fox, and we at Fox Family are so proud to be able to take care of your HVAC system.  Typically, the filters you buy at the store say to change them every 90 days.  There’s an arrow on those filters that points in the direction of the air flow.  It’s important when changing these out that you follow the instructions on the filter so they work effectively.

Most of us have the one-inch pleated filters that get changed at the return air filter grille in the ceiling or lower on the wall if your ductwork is under the house.  That’s not as common, though.  Others must replace their filter at the air handler itself.  That air handler will be either in your attic, in a closet somewhere, or in your garage.  If you have a newer home, the air filter is usually found in the attic.  Later model homes will have the furnace or air handler in the closet or garage.  You’ll know it if it’s in your closet because you can hear it pretty easily.

If you don’t know where your air filter is, because you just moved in to a new home or you’ve just never thought about what happens if you don’t change your air filter, give us a call here in the Sacramento Valley and we’ll be happy to come out and show you.

The Blower Motor Gets Dirty

The filter is there to keep your air handler and the rest of the system clean.  On most systems around Sacramento, the blower motor and its fan blades are the first thing that will appear dirty if you don’t change your air filter.  That doesn’t seem too important, but if your fan blades get even an 1/8” of dust build-up, your air conditioning system will decline in efficiency.  The motor must work much harder to spin the fan blades because it’s heavier.  This can make your blower either slow down or just quit working altogether.

I’ve seen some blower fan blades so impacted with dirt and other things,that the scoops that make up those fan blades were completely full.  There was nothing to scoop the air and throw it in to the house! Those scoops are only a ¼ to 3/8 inches deep.  So, you can see how a dirty blower wheel can really decrease the air conditioner’s performance.

The Evaporator Coil Can Become Clogged

When we come out to service calls that have a dirty blower assembly, it usually leads to inspecting the next part in your air handler that the dirty air comes into contact with:  the evaporator coil.  This is the cold coil that the blower sends air through to cool your home.  This is a big one, folks!

An evaporator coil is similar to a radiator grille in a car.  It has tubes that go back and forth left to right for about 20 to 30 turns.  Layered in with those tubes are some tightly woven aluminum fins which form a coil called the evaporator coil.  If your blower motor doesn’t get dirty from a never-changed air conditioner filter, this evaporator coil surely will.  There’s just no way for the bigger particles of dirt and hair to get through this coil.

It’s Trouble

The consequences of a dirty evaporator coil are very detrimental to your air conditioner’s proper operation.  Air is supposed to flow through this cold coil at a certain rate and flow, through the ducting system that delivers air to the registers in your room.  If this evaporator becomes laden with dirt it will slow the air down so much sometimes that this normally cold coil becomes a giant ice cube.

The warm air from the house is designed to become about 20 degrees colder when it passes through this evaporator coil.  Slowing down the air flow with a dirty coil can make that 20-degree effect become a 40-degree effect, which in turn reduces the air flow even more.  The coil will eventually begin to quickly freeze into an ice cube!  No more air will get through the system and into your rooms because it’s become a giant ice ball!

A Snowball Effect

Most people turn their system off at this point.  What happens next can damage your system even more!  The ice ball begins melting, and eventually will increasingly melt downwards onto the blower motor where we all know water and electric motors don’t mix.  This does happen frequently and can cause the motor to stop running altogether.


This is the air you’re breathing!  Would you like to know exactly what gets caught in these filters and then becomes part of the filters itself?  — dirt from the surrounding air, dander and fur from our pets, flakes of skin from our bodies, hair from our heads and bodies, mold, pollen, grass, and dust tracked into your home from people coming and going all day.

Your house has couches and beds that carry dust mites which leave their microscopic waste in the carpet, which eventually makes it into the filter for your air handler.  Smokers leave their fumes around, which stick very easily to the filter, and common household products like sprays and  cleaning solvents also get drawn into them.

Have you ever wondered why your filter sometimes gets black?  If you burn candles in the house, the smoke from the flame mixes in with the air.  If your air conditioner is on, it sucks that smoky air into the system.  That soot gets lodged into the filter as well, making it black.

We have a lot of wildfires here in California that cause the air to become so thick and harsh to breathe, some people start wearing face masks.  Even if your home’s windows and doors are all closed up, it seeps through the cracks in your home making its way to the filter.

What are some other things you think are getting stuck in these dirty air filters?  Are there local pollutants in your area that inevitably make it to the air filter?  Let us know in the comments section below.  I’ve seen candy wrappers, old air fresheners, cigarette butts, bottle caps and so many other things in there.  It’s absolutely gross!

The Lining of the Ducts and Supply Registers Get Dirty

If you just moved into a house and know that the last tenant there was a smoker, there’s a brown slime very likely lining the inside of the ducting system leading to your rooms.  You may even see brown gel on the registers in those rooms.  If it’s lining the ducts, it’s in your system, and you’re breathing that air as well. Dirty air filters allow small particles of air to pass on into the ducts as well.  I usually refer to it as moon dust, because its so fine.

Dust and Airborne Particulates Mean Poor Air Quality

I like to think of it this way.  If you were to put an air mask on that started out white, and after even just 3 months, it was gray or brown in color from all these things listed above, would you still wear that air mask?  No.  Why? Because that would be disgusting right?  I think it’s the same when we don’t change our air filters for our air conditioning systems.  Click here for a more in-depth look at the air quality in your home and how it can affect your health.

Change Your Filter!

If you buy filters at the store, they usually come white with pleats or ridges to help increase the surface area of the filter.  If that filter isn’t perfectly white, it’s time to change that filter.  This is why I don’t recommend buying the super expensive filters, because people get attached to them, and don’t want to spend that $20 again.  Just get the super cheap filters like I’ve been using at my house for years.  My system is still perfectly clean because I change them so often.

90 Days?

Filters say on the trim to change them out every 90 days.  That can be misleading because in the off season, when its mild outside, we don’t really use our system to heat or cool us.  It’s nice outside.  During these times of the year your filter isn’t getting dirty, so there’s really no need to change them.  But during the hot times of the year we might need to change them once every month or two.  That’s 30 to 60 days.

Here’s how I do it.  I see my return air filter grille every time I walk down the hallway in my house.  Naturally as an HVAC technician, I look up at my filter in the ceiling pretty much every time I pass through the hallway. If I see the filter is not as perfectly clean as it was when I bought it, it’s time to change my filter.

Set a Reminder on Your Phone

Renters of homes and condos are notorious for not changing the filter in their homes. It’s not their system, so they don’t know how or they don’t care about extending the life of the HVAC system because they don’t have to buy a new system if it fails.  So, homeowners and property managers, set yourself a reminder on your phone every 60 days or so to stop by your property and change those filters.  If your not doing it, the tenants don’t seem to be doing it either.

We work for a few property management companies, and the number one call we respond to isn’t a broken-down system, it’s just the filter is so heavily impacted the system can’t breathe right.  If the system can’t breathe in because it’s dirty, it can’t breathe out either.  So just keep that in mind.

Wrapping Up

I really hope this explains what happens if you don’t change your air filter on your air conditioning system.  The filter says every 90 days, but in the summer and winter it might be more often.  Just keep an eye on it and visually make sure it’s always clean.  If you don’t, all you’ll get is mayhem.  Repairs happen.  But, when it’s done out of response for not being maintained properly because of something as easy as changing your filter 4 times a year, that could’ve been avoided.

Leave me some comments down below and let’s start a conversation about this topic.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and we’ll see you on the next blog post.