What is a Furnace Air Filter and How Does it Work?

Learn about furnace air filters - what they are & how they work - so you can choose & maintain them properly for optimal home comfort & indoor air quality.

What is a Furnace Air Filter and How Does it Work?

The air filter in your HVAC system works to remove particles from the air in your home and keep your air conditioning and heating running smoothly. Over time, the filter will accumulate a lot of dirt and debris and will need to be replaced. You should usually replace the filter at least once a year. Since most people use the term “air filters” interchangeably with other terms such as “AC filters” and “oven filters”, there is a misconception that they are the same thing or, in some cases, completely separate things.

We often hear customers ask, “What is an oven filter?” When it comes to AC air filters and oven filters, they are not identical, but they are not completely separate products either. There are very specific differences between the two. Below, we cover the key differences between “air filters” and “oven filters” in your central air system so you can choose the best options for your home air conditioner. Return air filters and oven filters work the same way.

Both components clean the air as it circulates through the house, removing contaminants before the air passes through the HVAC equipment to the rest of the house. Every time your HVAC system is up and running, this process takes place. It's important to note that because the filtration process is the same between air and oven filters, some homes use a single filtration system or type of air filter for hot and cold air. There will not always be a specific location for an oven filter in some central air systems. That said, air filters and oven filters are not the same thing.

Differences begin to occur between oven filters and AC filters in older homes, or in homes that have special heating and cooling needs (such as homes in New England, where winter weather is much more prominent than here in Alabama). Oven filters are located in the blower compartment of the oven. The compartment is usually located on a tray or door in the blower compartment. The air blower is usually located in a central location in your home, often near the air intake grilles. The thickness of the oven filter has a big impact on its service life.

Oven filters that have a thickness of 1 to 2 should be replaced or cleaned every 1-3 months. Oven filters that have a thickness of 3 to 4 can last up to nine months before they need to be replaced. And a 6-oven filter can last up to 12 months. Oven filters also use the MERV rating scale to indicate their filtration level. Residential oven filters typically have between 4 and 12 MERV.

The primary function of an oven filter is to trap airborne contaminants, not for air quality reasons, but to keep them out of the heating and cooling system. However, because the filter removes contaminants for the benefit of the system, air quality also benefits from its removal. How often this task must be performed depends largely on the type of oven filter in place. Dirty oven filters are a disaster for heating and cooling equipment, home comfort and indoor air quality. For more information on individual products that use filters, such as air purifiers, room air conditioners, and dehumidifiers, refer to their specific buying guides. Depending on the configuration of your home installation, there is a possibility that the air filter and the oven filter are one in the same. While not exactly a space science, choosing the best oven filter to replace your old one can be a bit difficult.

If you need a replacement air or heating filter, shop with Filterbuy and get your new air filters delivered to your door. Also known as whole-house air filters, you want your oven filter to be clean so that it provides you and your family with the freshest possible air without problems during the winter months. As a key component, air filters make it possible for your central air system to safely clean heated or cooled air as it makes its way through the rest of the home. When it comes to AC air filters and oven filters, they are not identical but they are not completely separate products either. You'll have to clean less dust and vacuum because your oven filter works hard to filter those things out of your oven before they get inside. The oven filter performs the same function as an air filter - removing dust, allergens, bacteria and even germs from the air that is introduced into your home from outside. We measure how well an air filter removes dust, pollen, and smoke from the air, and see how freely air flows through it at any fan speed.

You can also contact customer service or your local HVAC contractor who will help you determine what size filter you should order for your specific oven. And finally - don't forget about replacing or cleaning your furnace's air filter regularly! The best furnace filters trap indoor contaminants such as dust, pet dander and pollen helping to cleanse your home's atmosphere.

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