A Change for the Better

It’s the little things

When it comes to energy efficiency in the home, sometimes small changes can make a big impact. A small, unglamorous task like changing the filters on your HVAC system makes your unit run more efficiently – keeping your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. It also saves money. And the savings gained from having your system run more efficiently can be applied to more fun or entertaining pursuits that your family can enjoy together.

The lowdown on dirt

As you move around your home, you drive dust into the air from carpets, furniture and drapes. Regardless of where it comes from, dust and dirt trapped in a system’s air filter leads to several problems, including:

  • Reduced air flow in the home and up to 15 percent higher operating costs
  • Costly duct cleaning or replacement
  • Lowered system efficiency

Making the switch

Now, that you know the facts, it’s time to get busy changing or cleaning the air filter in your heating/cooling system. Many HVAC professionals recommend that you clean or change the filter on your air conditioner or furnace monthly. It’s simple and easy, and in many cases, it only takes a few minutes.

Filters are available in a variety of types and efficiencies, rated by a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). MERV, a method developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, tests filter effectiveness. The higher the MERV number, the higher the filter’s effectiveness at keeping dust out of your system. While most types of filters must be replaced, some filters are reusable. And don’t forget about the winter months. Your heating system needs to work as efficiently as possible to keep you warm (and your loved one feeling snuggly), and a clean air filter helps it do just that.

Heating and cooling professionals recommend turning your system off before changing the air filter. Make sure that the arrow on the filter – which indicates the direction of the airflow – is pointing toward the blower motor. When you’ve made the change, turn your system back on.

A teachable moment

Beyond saving money and improving the air quality in your home, changing your air filter is a great opportunity to teach your family more about energy efficiency. Consider getting everyone involved, and the entire family will learn how simple changes can make a big difference.

For other tips on how to save, visit tnelectric.org/efficiency, or call the efficiency experts at your local electric co-op.


Anne Prince writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

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