When it comes to household tasks like washing dishes, doing laundry, and shoveling the driveway, most of us are pretty clear on when and how often they need to be done.
But other tasks can be less clear. For example, how often should you change the filters in your home?
The short answer: it depends on the type of filter. You might be surprised to learn that most homes have multiple filters that need to be replaced periodically — from air purifiers to dishwashers, HVAC systems, and more.
Below, we take a look at the most common types of filters and offer tips on when and how to change them.
#1: HVAC Filters
The air filter in your HVAC system plays an important role in filtering dust, hair, pollen, and other small airborne pollutants from the air in your home, but that isn’t its primary purpose.
The main job of this air filter is to protect your HVAC equipment and furnace from damage. When small particles accumulate inside your HVAC system, it has to work harder to circulate air throughout your home. This can lead to overheating, restricted airflow, and even fan burnout.
That’s also why it’s so important to change your AC or furnace filter on a regular basis. But how often is “regular”?
Unfortunately, there’s no single answer. It really depends on how often you run your HVAC system, the amount of dust and airborne particles in the air, the thickness of your filter (standard 1-2-inch filters have a shorter lifespan than 4- and 5-inch filters), the material (fiberglass filters generally last longer than pleated air filters), and more.
That being said, a good rule of thumb is to change the furnace filter every three months to make sure it doesn't get clogged with debris.
#2: Air Purifier Filters
Like the filter in your HVAC system, air purifier filters can greatly reduce airborne dust, pollen, mold spores, and even smoke in your house. They do this by sucking air through a filter, which then captures these particles and pollutants, and then pushing clean air back out into the living space.
As far as how often you have to change your air purifier filters, the frequency can vary based on a number of factors, such as your purifier model, how often you use it, and the air quality in your home. However, most manufacturers recommend changing your filter every six months to a year.
Generally, we recommend avoiding reusable, washable filters, as they require more maintenance. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, on the other hand, have a longer lifespan and are better at trapping finer airborne particles. Keep in mind, too, that many newer air purifier models (including Conway, Dyson, Winix, and more) will notify you when it’s time to change the filters.
#3: Stove Range Hood Filters
Most homes have one of two kinds of stove range hoods: vented (chimney) range hoods or ductless (ventless) range hoods.
Vented range hoods are connected to a duct that expels smoke, gases, and other airborne particles outside, while ductless range hoods use a filter to purify the air and recirculate it back into your home.
If you own the first kind, all you need to do is give the mesh screen and other surfaces a thorough cleaning every few months (although this will vary depending on how much cooking you do). On the other hand, if you own a ductless range hood, you’ll need to replace the carbon filter on a fairly regular basis — usually after every 150 hours of cooking (roughly three to six months). But this depends on how often you cook and the type of cooking that you do.
#4: Dryer Filters
Dryer filters often get filled with lint, hair, and dust — even after a single load of laundry. But unlike many of the other filters on our list, dryer lint screens don’t need to be replaced all that often.
Instead, most manufacturers recommend simply cleaning your filter between loads by removing the debris that builds up. Not only will cleaning out your filter on a frequent basis help your clothes dry faster, but it can also keep your energy bill down as your dryer won’t have to work as hard to perform its task. Not to mention that lint buildup can be a fire hazard!
That being said, if you notice that your lint filter has become clogged or isn’t working as well as it should, you can try soaking it in hot water and scrubbing it with a toothbrush. If that fails, sprinkle some baking soda over the mesh screen and then mist it with white vinegar. After it’s done fizzing, give it a light scrub with a scrub brush.
#5: Vacuum Cleaner Filters
Most vacuum cleaners these days have more than one filter. There is usually a primary filter, which collects most of the dust and dirt from the air that’s sucked into the vacuum cleaner, and a secondary filter that works to further filter the air.
To make things even more complicated, there are also several kinds of vacuum filters available on the market, including cartridge filters, cloth filters, foam filters, wet/dry filters, allergen filters, and more.
Some of these can be cleaned and used again (these are called reusable filters), while others need to be replaced every so often. For example, most manufacturers recommend replacing HEPA filters every six months or so (of course, the frequency of this varies depending on your vacuuming habits).
#6: Dehumidifier Filters
Most dehumidifiers on the market have a filter that removes small particles from the air before passing through the coils. As with HVAC filters, the purpose of this filter isn’t so much to clean the air as it is to protect the device from wear and tear.
Over time, these filters can build up a lot of dust and debris. And if they aren’t cleaned or replaced regularly, the efficiency of your dehumidifier can be affected.
As a general rule of thumb, you should check on the filter every month or so to determine if it needs to be replaced or cleaned. This is especially important if you live in a region with high humidity as bacteria and mold can breed on the filter and infect the air released into your home.
#7: Water Filters
Water filters come in all shapes and sizes. Some can be attached to your faucet while others sit inside a pitcher or bottle. But they all work to remove contaminants (as well as bad odors and tastes) from your water.
But how often do these water filters need to be replaced? Ultimately, it depends on how often they’re used. If you use your water filter multiple times a day, you’ll likely need to replace it more frequently than someone who uses it only a few times a week.
That being said, there are some telltale signs of when a change is needed. For example, if you notice a decrease in water pressure or if the water coming through the filter begins to take on an unpleasant flavor or smell, it's probably time. However, it’s better not to wait until these symptoms appear. Instead, we recommend getting on a consistent schedule for replacing your old water filters with new ones.
#8: Refrigerator Water Filters
If your refrigerator comes with a water dispenser, you may have wondered at some point whether the water filter needs to be replaced.
Just as your faucet water filter picks up sediment, bacteria, and other organic compounds, your refrigerator’s water filter is also meant to get rid of all those contaminants. If it goes too long without being replaced, it can get clogged (you’ll notice a decrease in pressure), and your water and ice might begin to taste and smell bad.
According to most manufacturers, the water filter in your refrigerator should be replaced at least every six months. But this can vary depending on the water hardness (the amount of minerals in your water), water quality, and how often you use the dispenser and ice maker.
#9: Dishwasher Filters
To help keep your dishwasher performing at its best, it’s important to clean your dishwasher filter on a semi-frequent basis. This is especially important if you notice that your dishwasher isn’t performing as well as it should or your dishes aren’t coming out as clean as they used to.
But unlike many of the other filters on this list, dishwasher filters can last many years without being replaced. In fact, you only need to replace a filter when it’s clearly worn or damaged.
As far as cleaning goes, most manufacturers recommend cleaning your dishwasher filter at least once a year. However, it depends on the number of loads you run per week and whether you rinse or scrape your dishes before loading. If you don’t scrape or rinse your dishes, you’ll likely have to clean the filter on a monthly basis.
As you can see, there are far more filters in your home than you can keep track of in your head. It's important to create a schedule of some kind to help you stay on top of your filter changes. Otherwise, you run the risk of having lower-quality air and water or damaging valuable equipment.
Notion's Home Education Series helps reduce the complexities of homeownership by covering topics from how to hang a picture frame to when to change filters around your home.