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Taking Precautions When Changing HVAC Filters - Reducing Airborne Transmission
HVAC technicians play an important role in regulating indoor air quality by changing air filters in their customer’s homes. These filters are designed to trap microbial contaminants such as mold, bacteria, and viruses along with allergens that can induce mild to serious health effects. Even before COVID-19 became an issue, it was prudent to assume dirty air filters contain living pathogens, since even the highest-efficiency rated types do not kill organisms. There are even HVAC air filters that are specifically made to capture smaller particles like viruses. High-efficiency filters can affect the performance of an HVAC system so it’s best to talk with the homeowner about their needs before upgrading a filter. 

To begin this conversation with your customers, start with the fact that to maintain healthy breathable indoor air, standard HVAC air filters should be changed at least every three months, or at the minimum recommendation of the air handler manufacturer. Changing an air filter on a regular maintenance schedule also keeps HVAC equipment in top working condition, prevents breakdowns, reduces energy consumption, and limits expensive repairs. Most filters can be changed by the average homeowner, but it doesn’t hurt to reach out with a reminder text or email,or even a phone call to discuss a fall maintenance visit and the importance of changing these filters.

Best practices and recommendations
The pandemic has raised awareness among homeowners surrounding best practices regarding air filter replacement. However, there are a number of recommendations to help keep technicians and homeowners safe while preventing the spread of airborne pathogens into a home or area. Here are some recommended steps to keep in mind while replacing an air filter, whether you are a trained tech or a handy homeowner:
  1. Turn off the power: Also turn off any fans in the area at least 20 minutes prior to servicing a filter.
  2. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE): This includes a face mask, nitrile gloves, and shoe covers. 
  3. Remove the old filter: Simply slide it out of the slot that holds it in place.
  4. Check the condition of the filter: Does it look clogged with dirt and dust? Many factors can impact how fast a filter will become clogged, shortening the life of the filter. 
  5. Place the old filter in a plastic bag: Be careful not to shake or drop it, as particles can be released into the air by any sudden movements. Tie the bag shut, taping it for good measure. Dispose of the filter in a garbage can. If the filter has a permanent frame, the media should be removed outside. Be sure to dispose of the old filter in an outdoor trash can. 
  6. Insert the new filter: Look for an arrow on the filter’s frame to show the direction that air should flow through the filter, which is always away from the return air duct and toward the air handler mechanism. When inserting the filter back in the housing, make sure the arrow points away from the return and toward the air handler. Write down the date you replaced the filter, for reference.