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The Most Overlooked Maintenance Item in HVAC Systems

Last month, instead of going over our annual ‘Spring Into Maintenance Checklist’ we often share this time of year, (and again, email me if you want a look at it) I talked about the most neglected / overlooked / forgotten maintenance item in our home and our plumbing systems. Now, as promised, this month I’ll talk a bit about the most common thing we see neglected in our HVAC systems…and that’s the system air filter.

Every year we get an abundance of calls, both residential and commercial, about the furnace not working properly. The unit keeps shutting down, but then after a while it works again. Or there is too little air flow. Or the fan keeps on running and running but no heat is coming out of the vents. If the HVAC’s air filter isn’t maintained and changed regularly, those problems and a myriad of others can result. And often, these calls are on systems that are either fairly new, or the occupants themselves are fairly new.

“I moved in 3 years ago, and I didn’t know the air filter needed to be changed (or cleaned or serviced)….it was running fine for a couple years and only started acting up recently.”

Sometimes, the furnace has run so hard and for so long on a clogged air filter, it keeps overheating, and finally it is ruined. So instead of lasting 20 years, it’s ruined in three or four years.

Neglecting maintenance on our HVAC systems is a lot like neglecting maintenance on our vehicles. If we wait until it’s running badly and/or we see smoke in the rear-view mirror, the damage has already been done.

Regular maintenance needs to be done according to the manufacturer’s instruction manual. And every single HVAC manufacturer recommends that a thorough maintenance be done at least once a year, and that air filters should be changed “as needed, depending on use and occupancy.”

There is no ‘rule’ for changing the air filter that can apply to all situations; every system is unique.

I have seen filters last only one month, and others last a year. An air filter on a home that has a family of five, (two of which smoke) that always cook their own food and eat in, and have a dog and two cats, needs to be changed much more often than a home with a senior couple that frequently eats out. A building in the middle of the city needs far more frequent maintenance than one in the outlying suburbs. We usually recommend that if you don’t have a good idea how long your air filter will last, just check it every three months until you find when it’s time to change it. A few signs your filter needs changing; there’s so much dust you can’t see the filter material, your system runs more often than usual, your home seems dustier than normal, you notice strange or burning smells near your HVAC system.

No matter how you check and maintain your air filter, the most important thing is to simply just do it!!! It’s easy, it’s quick and compared to the possible damage and problems, it’s very inexpensive. As I said last month… most of us have learned that if we don’t take care of these things regularly, we end up spending far more time and money on them downstream.


Bruce Davis, Sr.
President, Director of Education and Learning, Sales Manager, Licensed Journeyman Plumber, Licensed Electrician,
HVAC/R Electrical Administrator, HVAC/R, Certified WA State C.E.U. Instructor

Bruce Sr is President of Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating, a 67-year-old family owned and operated plumbing and heating business in Lynnwood, Washington. Bruce can be contacted at: Email: Bruce@dayandnite.net

Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating Inc. 16614 13th Ave. W. Lynnwood, WA 98037 800-972-7000

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Outstanding Service! Scheduler was pleasant and receptive. Technician (Collin) communicated well, arrived in the agreed upon time frame, diagnosed the problem and fixed the issue quickly. Previously, we had two other companies misdiagnose the problem and one company stand us up for a scheduled appointment. If we have plumbing issues in the future, Day & Night Plumbing will be our first call !

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We had a great experience with Day and Nite from start to finish. Chris was great at the no obligation consult. He explained things clearly and covered everything but didn’t waste our time. They also provided lots of options and thoroughly explained them but never tried to push or up-sell us. Installation was fast and very professional. We will definitely be using Day and Nite in the future.

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The technician was great: he knew exactly what the problem was and fixed it quickly and efficiently. Even when a glitch happened in the repair, he was totally prepared to handle the situation. I will definitely contact Day & Nite Plumbing for future problems. Thank you!

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Very pleased with the professional technician, Donavan, who came out when our water heater quit working. This was the third major problem with this water heater, so we took his advice and replaced it. Thankfully, he was able to also install the new one right away. I had confidence in his advice and ability to do the job. He was thorough and friendly. It was a five star experience. I highly recommend.

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I had the privilege to meet Zach on two separate occasions within a two week span. He was upfront and honest about the work that needed to be done. He is a hard-working, dedicated, professional employee of Day and Nite Plumbing. He explained what needed to be done. I asked questions and he was patient and explained things further so that I truly understood.

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