Change these air filters for fall, experts say

As energy costs are expected to continue to rise, it's more important than ever to maximize the efficiency of your heating and air units. Luckily all that can begin with an inexpensive do-it-yourself fix.

With energy costs expected to increase this winter, it’s more important than ever to maximize the efficiency of your heating and air quality systems. The good news is that you can start with an inexpensive DIY fix.

Your furnace (and central air, if you have it), works for months at a time, season after season. Don’t wait until you have it serviced to install clean filters; you can do it yourself. A dirty filter can release particles into the air and eventually damage your HVAC system. Locate filters near the units, as well as air returns in the ceiling. The size is printed right on the side, so you can buy the right one if you need a replacement and pop it back in.

Your heating system can cause itchy eyes and dry skin. Most Florida residents don’t use them thanks to Mother Nature’s humidity, but if you have a humidifier, you need to empty the tank daily and clean it regularly to prevent bacteria from developing. Generally, Consumer Reports says to drain, rinse, and towel-dry the tank daily.

Every week, deep clean the machine with vinegar and water, scrubbing the well in the base with a toothbrush and rinsing well. Place a cup of water and one of vinegar in the tank and let the solution sit. Rinse and towel-dry. Check the owner’s manual for how often to replace the filter or wick.

Air purifiers are meant to filter the air in a single room, not the whole house. To test them, Consumer Reports places them in a controlled chamber and injects smoke and dust particles into the room. The faster an air purifier can remove the particles, the better.

But an air purifier can’t work at its full capacity unless air is pulled through a clean filter. To make sure it’s most effective, change the filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions, usually every six to 12 months.

Knowing you’re doing the right thing to keep the air in your house clean will help you breathe easier.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the concentration of certain pollutants is often two to five times higher indoors than outdoors. So even though you can’t see the air in your home, do what you can to keep it clean.