7 Reasons Your Filter Isn’t Improving Your Indoor Air Quality

hvac air filterPollution is not always visible. You may not see dark smoke in your home but the air may still have a lot of impurities. These microscopic particles are so small and so light that they can float everywhere unnoticed. When you breathe, they get inside your lungs and affect your health. Air filters can help reduce indoor pollutants by capturing them as they pass through the material. Thus, one of their primary functions is improving indoor air quality. Heating and cooling systems already have these but they might not perform as well as they should. If you have bad indoor air quality, then read on to learn what might be causing the problem.

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7 Reasons Your Filter Is Not Improving Your Indoor Air Quality

Poor air filtration can generally be attributed to one of the following reasons:

1. No Air Filter in the HVAC System

missing hvac air filter

If you have just moved in, then you should perform a thorough inspection of the HVAC system. Most will assume that there are air filters installed but the previous owners could have removed these before leaving. Perhaps you might discover other things that require your attention such as dirty or damaged components. It is always good to check, especially if you are noticing a dusty interior. Without filters, air pollutants can come in freely and settle on the coils, ducts, blowers, and other parts of the system.

2. Incorrect HVAC Air Filter Installation

Even if an HVAC filter is present, it won’t be able to perform well if it isn’t installed correctly. It will not matter that you bought a premium filter when its location is not quite right. Proper installation is important since dirty air can move freely through tiny gaps along the sides of the filter. Its ability to capture dirt, dust and other allergens will be compromised. Homeowners may follow the recommended maintenance schedule for filter replacement but it will not improve the situation until the installation has been corrected. Untrained individuals may not notice the problem but experienced technicians will quickly figure out what’s wrong.

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3. Short Heating & Cooling System Runtime

Filters are passive cleaning solutions. They are unable to move and capture dirt from the air. Instead, they are placed strategically such that air is forced to pass through them. The HVAC system’s blowers must work for a reasonable period to move enough air. If the system is too big for the home, then they will achieve the thermostat setting hastily and turn off afterward. That’s why scientific calculations are important when determining the right HVAC system size. If replacing the oversized equipment is not an option, then try to make the fans work longer by setting them to ON instead of AUTO. Another strategy is to augment the HVAC filters with a separate air filter to boost air quality. Consult a local HVAC contractor for more information.

4. Poor HVAC Airflow

image of hvac air vent

There are homes where the system runs long enough but the amount of air moving across the system is still lower than it should be. Consequently, the volume of filtered air decreases. This situation is usually brought about by return ducts that are too small for the system’s needs. It could also be triggered by filters that have been compromised by excessive dirt build-up. This makes it difficult for air to pass the barrier, thus pushing air pressure up while pulling the airflow down. The system will work harder and consume more energy, thus reducing efficiency. Follow the recommended filter replacement schedule to capture pollutants without blocking air. You can also perform periodic inspections and replace filters with greater frequency if necessary.

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5. Low MERV Rating

Filters can be classified by their Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value or MERV. This is a number that indicates the level of filtration that can be achieved by each product. Cheaper products are tempting to purchase since you can get a lot of them without spending much. However, these are likely to have low MERV ratings and are thus ineffective in removing pollutants from the air. On the other hand, expensive filters require a higher investment but they can perform at a high level which is good for the health of the household. Therefore, don’t let price dictate your purchases. Think about what you are getting for your money. Perhaps shelling out a little more for a more efficient filter is the practical way to go.


6. Bypassed Air Filter

HVAC systems don’t come as a single unit. Rather, they are a collection of multiple components that must be assembled around the house. While it is nice to get things from known brands, the system will not be able to perform well if the contractor is following a flawed design or making several mistakes during installation. It may be rare but some bypass the air filter by connecting the outdoor duct to the return side. Untrained individuals may never realize what’s wrong no matter how hard they look. Veteran technicians will notice the problem during routine inspections and offer fast solutions.

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7. Incorrect Air Filter Location

A basic understanding of how the system works will help anyone determine where to place the air filter. If you know how the air flows, then this should be easy. It may seem simple but mistakes do happen. Incorrect placement will negatively affect the performance of the filters. High-quality products will not achieve their potential.



Air filters have a massive influence on indoor air quality. A household that is always dealing with respiratory issues should check whether its filter is functioning correctly. Perhaps there are problems waiting to be fixed. Look for a suitable filter and install it properly to achieve the full benefits. For complex cases, seek the help of a trusted HVAC contractor so that you can finally move forward. Their assistance will yield quick results. They can also help you avoid a recurrence.

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