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How to Change an HVAC Filter in Your Rental Property

Nothing brings Summer fun to a halt faster than a broken-down HVAC system. For tenants, this is an uncomfortable hassle, but for landlords, it is a potentially costly repair. Industry experts agree that the best way to prevent an unfortunate HVAC breakdown is through proper maintenance and care. However, some of that responsibility falls on the landlord and some on the tenant in a rental unit. Therefore, ensuring a cool and comfortable Summer takes year-round cooperation. Join us below as we examine how to size your filter, the steps to change an HVAC filter, and what can go wrong if you don’t!






Who is Responsible for What?

As we mentioned above, the responsibility of HVAC maintenance takes cooperation from both the landlord and the tenant. Doing so ensures the system performs at peak efficiency through any season. Let’s quickly review each party’s role in caring for your rental home’s most expensive system.

Tenant Responsibilities for HVAC Maintenance

  • Tenants must check the filter monthly and replace or clean as needed
  • Report any issues with the thermostat
  • Contact the owner or property manager immediately if the system breaks down

Landlord Responsibilities for HVAC Maintenance

  • Have a licensed technician perform seasonal preventative maintenance to ensure the system is working properly
  • Educate tenants on how to change an HVAC filter
  • Remind and follow up with tenants to ensure filters are changed at proper intervals

What is an HVAC Filter?

HVAC filters come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Therefore, when it comes time to change an HVAC filter, it is important to use the correct size for your system.

What is an HVAC Filter?

Typically, these filters can be purchased in bulk packs to save money and are disposable. Their specially designed cells or fins trap dust, dirt, allergens, and other airborne debris, keeping them from circulating through the home.

How Do I Measure My HVAC Filter?

Luckily, many modern HVAC filters have the size printed on the side. However, there are instances where it is not included, and individuals must know how to measure for a proper fit. So, to find the size you need, follow the steps below –

  1. Measure the Length and Width of the current filter
  2. Find the Depth of the filter by measuring the thickness
  3. Put the numbers together to read Length x Width x Depth – this is your filter size

How Do I Measure My HVAC Filter?

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that manufacturers use a measurement called “nominal size,” meaning the measurements are rounded up to the nearest inch. For example, actual size of 15.75”x19.5”x0.75” would equal a 16”x20”x1” nominal filter size.

How to Change an HVAC Filter in 6 Easy Steps

The process to change an HVAC filter in your rental may vary due to the type of unit. So, when in doubt, check the manufacturer’s manual for recommendations on how to proceed with replacing a filter. Also, given that these filters trap dirt, dust, and allergens, wearing a dust mask and gloves with a bag ready for the used filter is a good idea.

Steps to Replace an Air Filter

  1. Turn Off the Power – Safety first! Before removing the cover or filter, turn off the power. This will keep you from mistakenly touching any moving parts or “live” wires. Additionally, it will prevent the unit from sucking debris back in from jostling the filter.
  2. Take Out the Old Filter – Remove the cover (if needed), locate the old filter, and slide it out of the slot holding it in place.
  3. Inspect the Old Filter – Take a moment to check the current filter to see if it is clogged. Depending on the type of filter you have, it may need to be cleaned or replaced. Keep in mind many factors contribute to how quickly a filter can become clogged. Therefore, inspect often and replace as needed, even if more frequently than the manufacturer’s recommendation.
  4. Clean the Filter – In some cases, your unit may use a reusable filter with a metal frame and washable coated material. Therefore, remove and clean it, ensuring to rinse it thoroughly and let it dry completely. If your filter is in a cardboard frame with a fiber mesh material, it is disposable and will not hold up to cleaning.
  5. Replace the Filter – At this point, you can replace the reusable filter back into the unit or insert a new disposable filter. However, ensure to insert the filter properly for correct airflow. Look for an arrow on the filter frame which depicts how the air should flow – which is away from the return air duct and going toward the air handler mechanism.
  6. Dispose of the Old Filter – HVAC filters may contain contaminants and irritants. Therefore, place it in a plastic garbage bag and remove it from the home.

How Often Should I Change an HVAC Filter?

Emergency maintenance for an HVAC system is costly. So, proper maintenance throughout the year is critical. Landlords should schedule general service at least once per year and have a licensed HVAC technician look over the unit. As far as changing the filter, that depends on several factors and is typically handled by the tenant. Let’s review some considerations below when deciding how often to change an HVAC filter.

Check Your HVAC Filter Monthly If …

  • The unit runs continuously for 6-months or year-round.
  • Pets are in the home. Dander can build up and circulate through the air.
  • Multiple residents in the home create more dust, dirt, and debris in the air.
  • Smoking or vaping occurs indoors.
  • Someone in the home suffers from allergies or has another respiratory condition.
  • The home has a fireplace that is used, especially wood burning.
  • Construction is taking place in or around the direct area of the property.

Change the HVAC Filter Immediately If …

  • You inspect and find the filter is damaged.
  • The filter is damp, which could quickly grow mold and circulate harmful spores into your home’s air.

On average, most HVAC filters require changing every 3 months or so. However, as we mentioned, many factors can make this number go up or down. Therefore, it is important to regularly inspect the filter and change as needed to maintain optimal HVAC efficiency.

What Can Go Wrong When You Do Not Change an HVAC Filter?

We have said several times that changing the HVAC filter is important – but why? Filters of this type are vital at preventing airborne particles from entering and damaging sensitive and expensive machinery. When filters are dirty, the system can suffer pressure drop leading to hindered airflow. In severe cases, this could lead to no airflow at all.

This hindered circulation means the parts of the system must work harder to keep the property warm or cool. Therefore, the system experiences undue stress, which could lead to failure altogether and major repair bills.

What Can Go Wrong When You Do Not Change an HVAC Filter?

Another important reason to change an HVAC filter regularly is the threat of mold growth. Dirty and clogged filters trap condensation that can quickly develop into a mold issue. Not only is this detrimental to an occupant’s health, but it is also not good for the HVAC unit. Therefore, additional service from a qualified professional is most often needed.

Never Forget a Filter with Professional Property Management

For owners, the benefits of a professionally managed unit are endless, but one big benefit is consistent maintenance oversight. Your rental property is a valuable asset, and we at Bay Property Management Group want to make sure it stays that way. Proper maintenance includes timely responsiveness to tenant repair needs as well as scheduling preventative services to ensure your property’s major systems stay operational.

In addition to maintenance coordination, our dedicated property managers in Leesburg can handle leasing, accounting needs, and daily interactions to free up your valuable time. If you are wondering how full-service rental management can help maximize the potential of your investment, give us a call today.