A heat pump can keep you warm and cool year-round, but it can only do this if it's properly maintained. Changing your air filter is one of the most important ways that you can help your heat pump to remain in working order. Over time, particles in the air will cause it to become clogged, slowing down or even stopping the flow of air. Your device may even begin to release allergens and dust into your home. If it's been more than six months since you've changed it, follow this handy guide to do so now.
Quick Note: Before you start this process, you'll need to identify the type of replacement filter you need. Check your user's manual for the part number and purchase the part before you begin.
Shut Down Your Power Source
This step is vital to take, so don't assume you can skip it and just work carefully. From your fuse box, either shut down the main power switch or the switch that provides power to the heat pump itself. If you aren't sure which switch goes to the heating device, simply use the larger main switch to temporarily remove electricity.
Remove the Panel
On the vast majority of heat pumps, the filter will be located inside the device. But that doesn't mean you need to disassemble it entirely.
Look on the sides or back for a long, thin rectangular panel with screws. Somewhere on this panel, you should see the words "air filter," "filter," or "access panel." While this isn't true of all models, most make it clear where the filter is housed.
Once you find the panel, use an appropriate screwdriver to unscrew each screw from it. Place these in a safe area so that they don't become lost--a magnet or a regular kitchen bowl both make an excellent way to store them.
Quick note: Some air pumps don't make use of screws. If you don't see them, look for small tabs instead. Press these down and pull to remove it.
Once you've unscrewed the panel, you should be able to simply pull it away from the machine. If you're having trouble with a stuck screw, try these instructions.
Once you're done, move on to the next step.
Locate the Filter
Directly under the access panel, you'll find the air filter. The air filter itself looks just like a window screen, but will be lying either horizontally or vertically within the machine. Look for the side of the wood or metal frame inside the unit.
Look for an arrow on the outer frame. The arrow in question indicates the flow of air; most heat pumps bring that air in from below and out from above. Because this is not exclusively true, it's important that you take note of where the arrow is currently pointing. Either snap a picture of this, or write down the direction it points.
As a general rule of thumb, the arrow will point away from the intake ducts and towards the air exchange handler (the main unit inside your home) itself.
Remove the Filter
Gently but firmly grasp this and pull it straight backwards, out of the machine.
If it's been some time, it's likely to look more like a rectangular or square shape full of brown debris and dust. If that's the case, you can be sure that you're doing the right thing by changing it.
Quick Note: It's best to have a garbage bag on hand after you do this. Drop the used filter into it and seal it up; this will prevent the debris and dust from entering your home again. Try not to bump or drop the filter until it's sealed inside the bag--anyone who has cleaned chalkboard erasers will understand why this is important. Simply put, you'll have dust everywhere.
Dispose of the old air filter before continuing.
Clean Up the Outer Panel Opening
With a soft cloth, remove any dust and debris from the area directly around the outside of the filter housing panel. Also wipe down the back of the access panel itself. This step isn't necessarily vital, but the cleaner your heat pump is, the better it will work.
Don't reach your hand deep inside the panel or attempt to clean it on the inside--if it looks dirty, it's a sign that you need professional maintenance. Reaching inside can put you at risk for electric shock or injury.
Place the New Filter Inside the Heat Pump
Once you're satisfied that the panel door is clean, pick up your new filter.
Look for the arrow on its side--match its direction to the direction you made note of on the old filter. Slide it into the machine until you aren't able to push it any further. Most won't make an audible "click," so don't be worried if you fail to hear one.
Replace the Panel
Once you're sure that the air filter is fully inside the machine, replace the panel and re-insert the screws. If your panel is tabbed, these should simply click into place once pushed in.
At this point, you can turn your heat pump back on and make use of it. A very faint odor can be normal the first time you use it.
Your heat pump is a marvel of technology. It provides you with the comfort and security you need at what is usually a better value than other heat sources. If you keep it properly maintained, you can enjoy the benefits for many years to come. As individual heat pumps can vary in design, it's impossible to give unique instructions for each and every model. Thankfully, the vast majority of systems will follow the above instructions. If you have any questions about this process, or if you want to schedule a maintenance visit, contact your HVAC specialist today.