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Air filters--absent in our new house, completely; aren't they necessary?

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Showing 1-16 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 16, 2012 2:21:13 PM PDT
mayamaven says:
I've never seen a house have an otherwise ordinary-looking duct system and a gas furnace, and not an air filter anywhere accessible. The gas furnace I once lived with had flanges inside a hinged access panel at the front and the filter slid in there. I've lived in houses that had air filter just inside the large return grille, in the center of the house (usually in a hallway). I know filters are sold for floor grilles.

We've just moved in, and I can't find any filters anywhere, and neither the furnace nor return grille in the hallway has even a slot or flanges to indicate it's made to keep a filter in place. Do systems have filters only accessible via the attic? That seems unlikely, especially in an attic with small access openings one must climb a ladder to get into...

I don't know anyone in heating and cooling to ask, and would be grateful for any ideas or recommendations.

Posted on May 16, 2012 4:13:46 PM PDT
Ron says:
they can be in some weird places sometimes upstream of the furnace. seems like you should be able to find a spot where one was. sometimes it's not obvious.

Posted on May 16, 2012 4:28:47 PM PDT
Filters are absolutely necessary, with that said it is most likely that your furnace has one. your filter is "supposed" to be located on the return air side(intake) of the furnace to keep the furnace clean from dust and debris. some furnaces have them inside of the furnace located very close to the blower, others have a filter rack or filter grill (as you mentioned seeing before). If you find that your does not have one it would be a good idea to retro fit one in. it is likely that someone just took it out and ever replaced it.

In reply to an earlier post on May 16, 2012 5:07:34 PM PDT
anne says:
try They have been at it for 75yrs & know what they are talking about. If you can not find it on the web site they have an 800# where you can talk to a real person. good luck!

Posted on May 16, 2012 6:56:40 PM PDT
Chris says:
Remove the upper furnace door 1st then the lower furnace door. It may be in the lower portion of the furnace itself by the blower held in place by clips or a wire with a spring across the entire filter.

Posted on May 16, 2012 7:53:15 PM PDT
J. Levene says:
You ABSOLUTELY NEED a filter -- the furnace and A/C unit will get ruined within a very few years if you don't have one. It is possible (though pretty unlikely) that there is not one; if so, it doesn't mean you don't need one.

In reply to an earlier post on May 16, 2012 8:45:43 PM PDT
I agree. I once had a furnace that the filter was INSIDE the furnace. It looked more like cloth than a regular filter.

Posted on May 17, 2012 8:34:08 AM PDT
NOT NECESSARILY! I just moved in a house that had no filters in the returns. I immediately went out and bought/installed filters. We had to call an A/C Tech for another issue and he said that we would have ruined the A/C system by running it with the filters. The Lennox system we have has a filter in the unit and if anything should only be used with the cheap $1.00-type filters in the house according to him.

Posted on May 18, 2012 12:02:29 PM PDT
There could be a hepa filter in the attic that needs to be cleaned or changed yearly. I know that the Trane Clean Effects a/c filters are in the attic. You might have a filter in the furnace closet in the house. Good luck finding it. You could also call an a/c repair company for one of there 'tune-ups' for around $50 and they can make sure that everything is running efficiently and while they are there ask them where the filter is.

In reply to an earlier post on May 21, 2012 5:16:18 AM PDT
I just had my system replaced in my 42 yr old house. The new system has a much larger filter in the attic that gets changed every six months. The grilles are still downstairs, but if I put the old style filters in it would create too much restriction on the air flow.

Posted on May 21, 2012 1:00:25 PM PDT
Henry Bowman says:
Get the make and model number of your furnace and visit the manufacturer's website. The owner's manual or installer's manual should list the location, size, and replacement schedule of the filter.

It might be worth a service call to a reputable HVAC company to come out, test the refrigerant levels and pressures, clean the coils indoors and out, and give the system a once-over.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 1:01:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 2, 2012 9:15:56 PM PDT
Lost Gecko says:
Two EXPENSIVE Lessons we learned from a bad experience, directly related to the topic of finding furnace filters:
(1) Whenever moving into a house with a gas furnace, check to find out whether a filter is hidden away INSIDE the furnace, EVEN IF if you have already found a working filter-frame and filter OUTSIDE of the furnace.

(2) There is something worse than having no filter. It is a filter that is clogged with months or years of dust, and it will eventually kill the furnace, but that will not be news to any of you reading this.

When we moved into our current house, we found a filter in a frame (plenum?) attached to the ducts that return air into the gas furnace. It was not part of the actual furnace, just attached to the side of it. We found that filter covered with dust; it looked as if the previous residents had not changed it in a year, even though in a visible and accessible area. We immediately replaced the filter with a new one, same size; and continued changing them every 1-3 months The furnace was working great, seemed reliable.

Over 2 years later, the furnace suddenly developed problems. It began switching itself off, at times when the thermostat was calling for continued or resumed heat. Next, a few strange noises, then it died. We called an HVAC company. The repairman quickly found the problem.

Turns out, there was ANOTHER filter, but it was located inside the furnace. That neglected filter had accumulated so much dust and dirt, that the furnace was not getting enough air. What severely damaged the furnace, as the repair guy explained to us, was that the old filter eventually started twisting and falling apart, and pieces got sucked into the furnace.

That hidden filter location could only be accessed by removing a large panel from the outer shell of the furnace. The panel was attached with several screws. That furnace panel looked like something that non-professionals should not open, but that turned out to be a bad assumption. I had never opened the furnace; I had been put off by a warning sticker-note on the next panel of the furnace, warning of danger to non-professionals.

We had not known there was a filter in there, and had never changed it, nor cleaned it. We had assumed (wrongly) that because we had already found a filter, there would not be another filter in a different location, hidden.

The price quote, for replacing a major part of the furnace, seemed almost as much as a new furnace. We decided to get a new high-efficiency furnace.

The new furnace was a major expense, of course. The construction seems less sturdy than the old furnace.

We could have avoided this expense, if we had checked the inside of the old furnace, and/or had an HVAC person inspect it, as others here advise. Henry Bowman's suggestion, regarding manufacturer web sites and owners' manuals, seems especially helpful. We had not done any research into the old furnace, while it seemed to be working fine. We thought changing the obvious filter was the only essential task. The house gave us so many other tasks.

Posted on May 24, 2012 10:02:40 PM PDT
PC Guy says:
I'd recommend a system check by a good service technician, he will check and lubricate your system, show you where the filter is, (or should be) and if you in fact don't have a filter he can install one and clean your coils because they will be plugged with dirt. You will recuperate the cost of the service call from the savings in operating cost efficiency and by preventing damage to the system.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 10:48:49 AM PDT
W. Dexter says:
I'm sorry to suggest the obvious, but unless it was a REO sale or a very confrontational/difficult sale, why don't you get your Realtor to find out where the filter(s) are from the prior owner?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2014 9:34:10 PM PDT
Easy Critic says:
"There could be a hepa filter in the attic that needs to be cleaned or changed yearly."
You sure will not find a HEPA filter there!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2014 1:37:35 PM PST
Augy says:
I have lived in my house 30 years and my furnace absolutely does NOT have any place for an air filter. I have had no issues with either the furnace or the central air in all that time so I would have to say that air filters are overrated.
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Discussion in:  Home Improvement forum
Participants:  16
Total posts:  16
Initial post:  May 16, 2012
Latest post:  Dec 14, 2014

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