Can a Dirty Air Filter Make You Sick?

If the air filter in your home is dirty, it can have serious effects on your health. Everything around it is contaminated, including the air you breathe, which can cause a range of physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, chest tightness, and cold-like symptoms. A household air filter installed in air conditioning systems and ovens traps dust particles and other pollutants from the surrounding air and ventilation grilles. However, if the filter is clogged or dirty, it can't work effectively and can make you sick.

A clogged filter can cause the heating and cooling system to become inefficient, as all air that passes through the systems must pass through the filter. If the filter is full of dust, airflow is restricted, making the system work harder than it should and resulting in premature wear, total system failure, or expensive utility bills. You may already be aware of outdoor air pollution such as smog and how it can affect your health. But did you know that dirty indoor air can make allergy and asthma symptoms even worse? If you live in a small house, your air filter can last much longer without needing to be replaced frequently since less air needs to be filtered.

Given the money you've already invested in your home, not to mention the priority you give to your health, it doesn't make sense not to change your air filters regularly. A dirty, clogged filter recirculates polluted air around the house, reducing overall air quality. If you're not sure what a dirty air filter looks like, inspect its color to see if it has turned dark or gray. The air filter helps trap all dust and other particles, preventing them from entering the air and spreading.

All air that passes through the systems must pass through the filter. If the filter is dirty and full of dust, airflow is restricted. If the owner's manual doesn't mention anything about the filter or if you can't find it, it's generally recommended that you change your air filter once a month during peak heating and cooling season. The edges of the filter should indicate its measurement in inches to help you buy the correct size for your unit.

Fortunately, illnesses and symptoms caused by dirty air filters are reversible if regular maintenance is guaranteed. If you have an air conditioning system or a boiler, it's important to understand the need for a clean air filter which could otherwise make you or your family sick. These arrows indicate in which direction you should install the air filter to match the direction of the airflow. Consult the owner's manual that came with the heating system to determine how often the filter should be changed and to better understand what MERV rating is recommended for optimal air cleaning and system efficiency.

If you have pets or people who smoke in your home, you may need to change the filter more often to avoid problems with indoor air quality.

Ashleigh Yballe
Ashleigh Yballe

Amateur internet ninja. Hipster-friendly tv fanatic. General pop culture buff. Subtly charming beer buff. Wannabe burrito evangelist. Award-winning internet practitioner.