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Can I Run My Furnace Without a Filter

NO. A furnace filter has a critical job to perform and a filter cannot be run without one. For a furnace to work properly, it should always be equipped with a clean, working filter. As we’ll see, a dirty filter can cause problems, and so can having no filter at all. When it’s cold outside, many of us rely on furnaces to heat our homes. If you’re not an HVAC professional, you don’t need to know much about how your furnace works, but there is one part EVERY homeowner should be familiar with: the filter.

Do All Furnaces Have Filters?

Yes, all furnaces & heat pumps have filters. If your home uses another type of heating system, like a boiler which uses water to heat the home, you will not have filters, but for a furnace or heat pump, a filter is a vital component. A furnace filter serves as a barrier to catch dust and debris that comes in through the return duct so it doesn’t make it to the blower fan. This protects your furnace and keeps your air cleaner since your HVAC system isn’t recirculating allergens back into the air.

It’s important to understand that all warm air furnaces and heat pumps are designed with filters. Some furnace filters are disposable, and others are made to be cleaned and reused. Either way, furnace filters must be changed periodically so they can continue to perform their vital function and protect your furnace and circulate clean air.

washable filters

Running a Furnace With a Dirty Filter

Since filters aren’t designed to keep working indefinitely, even if you have a filter in your furnace, it could be clogged if it hasn’t been changed in a while. A dirty furnace filter can cause some serious problems. Namely, it impedes air from flowing properly through your furnace, and can trigger it to shut down.

This can result in a colder home. Since the furnace will have to work harder to get air through, you can also expect higher energy costs. If you notice your heating bills seem high and your house isn’t getting as warm as it should, the first thing to check is the filter on your furnace.

Additionally, if your furnace is too overworked or too clogged, it could incur damage. For example, when there isn’t enough air blowing over the heat exchanger, the exchanger can get overheated and crack. Even if your furnace doesn’t break as a direct result of a clogged filter, the added wear and tear on the system can cause the system to eventually fail and require a replacement or extensive repairs sooner than it otherwise might have.

How Often to Change a Furnace Filter

how often should you be changing your air filter

Changing your furnace filter can be an “out of sight, out of mind” situation for some homeowners. Even during winter months, when we rely on our furnaces to keep our homes comfortable, we aren’t likely to think about the health of our system until there is a lapse in its function. When it comes to changing your furnace filter, this is a simple way to prevent problems from occurring and maintain the health of your furnace. You may be surprised by how often this task should be on your to-do list.

Central PA Furnace Services

You should check your furnace filter once every month, especially during the winter when your furnace is working hard to keep your home warm. Remove the filter and hold it up to the light to see if the light shines through. If the filter is still translucent, you can continue to use it. However, regardless of its appearance, you should change your filter after three months for 1″ filters and every 6 months for 5″ filters. If the filter doesn’t let light through, it’s time to change it. You will also be able to see the dust and debris accumulation on the filter and can make a judgement call to change it out just from the appearance of it.

What Happens If You Don’t Have a Filter in Your Furnace?

If you discover that your furnace has a dirty filter, but it’s a disposable filter and you don’t have a replacement on hand, you may be tempted to just remove it and let the furnace run for a while without a filter. Technically, you can temporarily run a furnace without a filter. However, it’s important to emphasize the word “temporarily” here. Running a furnace without a filter overnight, for example, isn’t likely to cause problems, but you should never allow this to turn into a long term solution.

Running a furnace without a filter for an extended period can cause some serious issues. The consequences of running a furnace without a filter include:

  • Poor air quality: For one, not having a filter in place means there is nothing to prevent dust and debris from being sucked into your furnace and recirculated throughout your home. This ultimately leads to inferior air quality for you and your family to breathe in your home. This can exasperate any breathing issues like asthma and allergies.  If you have air purifiers in your home, they will have to work harder to filter out allergens in the air.
  • Polluted duct work: Another issue is that some air pollutants will settle in the duct work. Since there is moisture present, these conditions promote mold growth to occur in your duct work. This contributes to an overall decline in air quality as well as to a more severe health hazard, particularly for those with mold allergies.
  • System failure: We’ve focused on air quality and health consequences so far, but it’s important to remember that a furnace filter’s primary function is to protect the furnace itself. If there’s no filter in place to provide that protection, the inner workings of your furnace can become coated in grime. The evaporator coils or the blower motor could easily fail due to the added stress.

Schedule Routine Preventive Maintenance

It’s easy to take our furnace for granted and fail to give it the upkeep it needs to continue working properly. In addition to changing out filters, this also means checking on your furnace to make sure everything is in good working order. Typically, you’ll want a professional to conduct these routine checkups. There are a lot of different filter types to choose from and a professional can recommend one that will work more efficiently and filter out certain particulars that others can’t.

Routine preventive maintenance does more than help you avoid immediate issues. It’s the best way to proactively do all you can to maximize the life of your furnace. A well-maintained furnace can last longer than one that is developing problems or suffering from wear and tear. A well-maintained furnace will also work more efficiently and more effectively than one that is functioning in spite of clogged filters or other problems.

Full HVAC Services From Home Climates

a home in central Pennsylvania having their air filter upgraded

Home Climates offers service tune-ups for HVAC systems so you can maintain the health of your system. We recommend scheduling a furnace tune-up every fall so you can be sure your furnace is in tip-top shape before colder weather hits. Even if you do chose to wait to have maintenance done during the winter, a furnace tune up is still important and helpful. Our service technicians can take care of replacing filters in addition to inspecting the furnace and diagnosing any possible issues.

In addition to offering tune-ups, Home Climates can assist with any of your HVAC needs. If you’re dealing with an immediate problem with your furnace, for instance, and need to schedule a furnace repair, Home Climates can help. We are committed to customer satisfaction in all we do and will partner with you in any way we can to help you enjoy uninterrupted, efficient heating in your home.


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