Change Those Air Filters!

Have you ever tried to breathe through a sock? Hopefully the answer is no, but if you have, or if you’d like to try it right now (go ahead, I’ll wait), you’ve probably noticed that it’s significantly harder to breathe through that sock than to breathe without it covering your nose. While the point I’m trying to make could very well be about foot care, I’m actually speaking to the specifics of air flow.

When the sock is on your foot, air is flowing easily in and out of your lungs. When it’s wrapped around your head, not only do you look pretty strange, but your air flow is restricted because it’s harder to pull air in through the fabric of the sock. The thicker the sock, the harder it is to get air through it.

Many people don’t know this, but there are similar air flow situations within our everyday lives (assuming you don’t wear a sock on your face everyday) that can save you a fair amount of energy. And the great thing is, they’re not really that hard to keep on top of.

I’m talking about air filters. The first one up and the most important to keep on top of is your homes’ air system. Pretty much all automated systems installed within the last 10 to 15 years have some sort of an air filter. If you have such a device in your home, check with the paperwork that came with the system and you’ll find that most are supposed to be checked and/or replaced every six months. It’s a relatively simple operation and the filters tend to be in the $40 range depending on the system. That said, by keeping on top of this, your system will require less energy to move air through the house, your equipment will end up lasting longer because it doesn’t have to work so hard, and your air will be that much cleaner.

Next up is your lint filter. Now I know this is probably one most people who have a dryer are already on top of, but again, I’m surprised at how many people don’t clean their lint traps. This will save you money and equipment replacement over the long run for the same reasons as your house filter, with the added benefit of making the house safer. If the lint trap fills up too long, there is a possibility of fire due to the heat given off from the dryer, so there is a safety component here as well. And once you’ve scraped that trap clean, don’t chuck the little lint clump, feed it to your worms! Mine love it.

Finally, moving to the outside of your home, there is the air filter in your car. If you are the type of person to take your car in every 3000 miles for a checkup, you’re already covered. But if you’re like me, make sure to check that filter every couple of thousand miles or so. A simple visual check will tell you how bad it has gotten. By keeping the air filter clean, the car will run better, more efficiently, and compared to never changing the filter, most likely longer.

Every time you change one of these filters you’ll have to toss the old one, but thankfully, if you are willing to invest a little more, there are reusable filters for many cars and home heating systems. I can’t speak to any specific companies that make them at this time, but generally speaking the filters are washable and infinitely reusable. While the upfront cost is a bit more, these units will more than pay for themselves in the long run.

So check those air filters and for gosh sakes, get that sock off your head.


Dave Chameides is a filmmaker and environmental educator. His website and newsletter are designed to inspire thought and dialogue on environmental solutions and revolve around the idea that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. “Give people the facts, and they’ll choose to do the right thing.”


W. C
W. C4 months ago

Thank you.

William C
William C4 months ago


Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W7 years ago

thank you

Kare Anderson
Kare Anderson8 years ago

Because of newer technology there's an enormous improvement in home air quality when one doesn't rely on room-only units (we don't tend to live sealed in a room) but instead to install a continuously high-performing whole home unit, one that is simple to maintain and does not emit ozone. The new hybrid version is actually an energy-saver too.
learn more

Johnine C.
Johnine C8 years ago

What about apartment filters?? Is it up to the managements superintendents to replace? I have airpurifiers, used humidifier etc.., NOTHING HELPS!! My dog & myself have trouble! My dog is kept very well & groomed as should be! Her nose has been very dry & I have been getting nose-bleeds so often! Called our Drs.(her Vet, my MD) She has a solution I have to use & hates,& I also had to obtain one & the humidifier & air filter, as I previously stated! Still dry! So is it time for a filter change in apartment & by super?...Does anyone know the answer?? HELP!!

No deseo Mi identidad
ca e8 years ago

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) Symptoms

SBS symptoms are acute symptoms, such as eye and nose irritation and headache, associated with occupancy in a

specific building, but not indicating a specific disease. Risk factors for SBS symptoms identified in many studies

include lower ventilation rates, presence of air conditioning, and higher indoor air temperatures. Increased chemical and

microbiological pollutants in the air or on indoor surfaces, debris or moisture problems in HVAC systems, more carpets

and fabrics, and less frequent vacuuming were risk factors in a smaller number of studies. One large study suggests that

a 10 cfm per person increase in ventilation rates would decrease prevalences of the most common SBS symptoms on

average by one third. Practical measures could diminish all these risk factors . Based on these data, the estimated

potential reduction in SBS symptoms was 20% to 50%. The affected population is very large – in a survey of 100 U.S.

offices, 23% of office workers (64 million workers) frequently experienced two or more SBS symptoms at work. The

estimated productivity decrement caused by SBS symptoms in the office worker population was 2%, with an annual cost

of $60 billion. A 20-50% reduction in these symptoms, considered feasible and practical, would bring annual economic

benefits of $10 billion to $30 billion

Sustainable Dave
Dave Chameides8 years ago

Yeah it's one of those things you don't really need to see but do at the same time.

Sylvia B.
Sylvia B8 years ago

I find that when I change my air filter in my furnace, I am less likely to have sinus trouble. Also, having a professional come over to clean the air duct system is a good idea. I was surprised at how much junk was in the pipes after 20 years.