6 Warning Signs of Dirty Furnace Filters

By February 22, 2021Maintenance
dirty furnace filters

On average, Americans spend over $2,200 per year on their energy bills. Almost half of that amount goes toward heating and cooling.

Southwest Florida winters are the mildest in the United States, though you know how chilly the nights are. Just because we have some of the warmest winters doesn’t mean you should ignore your heating system.

The truth is, if you’re not keeping up on your furnace maintenance, you’re losing money and risking your health. Dirty furnace filters are a primary cause of energy inefficiency and poor in-home air quality.

Do you have dirty filters? Read on to learn the signs.

Health Risks Associated With Dirty Filters

Before we discuss the signs of dirty furnace filters, we want to reiterate why changing them is so important. Of course, finances remain a concern. Everybody likes to save money.

Though your wallet might feel like the most important aspect, dirty filters compromise your family’s long-term health.

Your furnace filters keep harmful dust, dander, and other allergens out of your house’s atmosphere. This helps mitigate asthma, COPD, and other respiratory illness symptoms. 

A build-up in your filters causes a spike in harmful gasses like carbon monoxide within your home atmosphere. This is why it’s so important to recognize the signs of dirty furnace filters and to act quickly.

1. Are You Sick More Often?

You know there are health risks associated with clogged furnace filters, but it’s another thing to feel the symptoms. They don’t have to be severe.

Are you congested when you wake up? Do you have a dry cough that won’t go away? Do your eyes burn?

It’s easy to ignore these symptoms or blame them on allergies. They very well could be. Dirty filters in furnace or HVAC systems can cause your allergies to feel more severe.

2. Higher Bills

If you’ve lived in your Fort Myers area home for a while, you know what to expect from your utility bills month to month. You know the hot summers mean higher costs. You expect a reduction during the mild winters.

The familiar utility price patterns are how you budget your money and adjust your thermostat. Often reliable energy bills that see a sudden spike, especially in the winter months, are a sign of dirty furnace filters.

Why? When you turn on your heating system, it pulls in air to heat and re-circulate through your heating ducts. When your system works harder to pull that air in, it uses more energy.

3. Dust

You work hard to keep your home’s surfaces clear of dust and debris. It’s maddening when you spend the day dusting and cleaning your home to turn around and see it dirty the next day.

Why does this happen?

Your furnace filters separate dust and other dirt particles from the air circulated through your home. Dirty or clogged furnace filters can’t perform this task. Therefore, more dust and debris will circulate through your house.

As this dirty air circulates, the dust separates and settles on your home’s surfaces. If you’re spending too much time cleaning during the winter, a dirty furnace filter is probably the culprit. 

4. Lack of Heat

Though the winters in Fort Myers and Southwest Florida are short and mild, the temperature can drop to 42°F. While you might not need your heat for very long, when you need it, you need it to work fast.

When you turn on your heat, do you notice your system doesn’t warm your house as fast as it used to? Is your heater running longer throughout the day and night?

Is the air blowing from your vents lukewarm or not warm at all?

This is a sign of a dirty furnace filter. A clogged, dirty filter interferes with your system’s heating cycle. This means your system runs longer and produces less heat.

5. Burning Smell

Often, you’ll notice a slight burning smell the first time you turn on your heating system. That’s normal. If you notice a distinct burning smell throughout the winter, you have a problem.

If you want to know, “are my air filters dirty?” a burning smell is an indicator. Here’s what causes that smell.

Your heater needs a certain amount of airflow through it to prevent overheating. If your filters are clogged, your system can’t pull that necessary air.

Though a burning smell could indicate other issues, troubleshoot by changing your furnace filter. If a new filter doesn’t solve the burning smell problem, you need to call a professional.

6. Fails “White Sheet Test”

All of the previous signs are good ways to determine if you need to change your furnace filter. If you see any of them but are unsure whether a filter change is necessary, you can perform a “white sheet test.”

This involves hanging a white bedsheet six to eight inches away from one of your heater vents. You let this sheet hang for an hour to two hours depending on your system’s heat cycles.

As the heated air blows from the vents to the sheet, it will blow with it whatever dirt and dust are in your system. If this air turns the white sheet a deep gray or black, you have a dirty filter.

Change Your Dirty Furnace Filters

An inefficient heating system caused by dirty furnace filters will drive up your energy bills and risk your health. Make sure you know the signs of a dirty filter and act fast.

Florida Heat & Air is here to help. Contact us today to schedule furnace service if you live in Bonita Springs, Estero, Naples, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Lee High Acres, Port Charlotte, and Punta Gorda areas.