What Should You Check If Your Whole-Home Air Filter Isn't Working?

Most residential air filtering systems are relatively simple. These devices replace the typical furnace filter found in most HVAC setups, adding an extra layer of filtration to improve indoor air quality. Since most filtering systems only contain a few elements, they're usually relatively trouble-free as long as you follow the manufacturer's cleaning and maintenance recommendations.

Of course, no HVAC component will last forever, so your air filtering system may suffer failures from time to time. If you suspect you're running into problems with your system, follow this simple checklist to figure out what's going on and what you should do next.

Step 1: Read the Warning Lights

Even older air filtering systems usually contain a few diagnostic lights on the front panel. These lights are more than just cosmetic; they're a critical part of maintaining your system. At a minimum, you should have a light that will let you know when it's time to clean or replace your prefilter, as well as an indication of when the main filter elements are too dirty.

Follow your manufacturer's recommendation for cleaning and servicing the unit when you see any of these lights turn on. Call a professional to check for additional problems if the lights remain on even after cleaning.

Step 2: Check for Power

If you don't see any lights or your unit refuses to turn on, it's time to take some basic steps to check for power. First, make sure the power cord is plugged in and correctly seated. Most air filter units use a normal power cord or an easily unclipped connector. Try reseating the power connector and checking again if the unit works. Next, check to make sure that the breaker hasn't tripped.

Note that any appliance that repeatedly trips a breaker in your home is likely suffering from an electrical issue. You may not need to be concerned if resetting your breaker resolves the problem permanently, but call a professional if the breaker continues to trip.

Step 3: Call an HVAC Technician

Since air purifiers are typically so simple, there are only a few things you can check yourself. Once you've exhausted these simple steps, the most likely culprit is an electrical problem or, potentially, an issue with the electrostatic elements inside the filter unit. Diagnosing these issues can be tricky, and there's a risk that you might damage the sensitive electrostatic elements inside the unit.

If you're still experiencing problems such as unusual smells, reduced airflow, or other issues that seem to point to a fault in your air purifier, the best option is to call in an expert. Air purifiers are relatively expensive home upgrades, so it's best to resolve the problem correctly to avoid causing damage that might force a replacement.

For more information about air filtering system repair, contact a professional.