Can a Dirty Air Filter Make You Sick?

dirty air filter in house

Today, air pollution is a major concern that affects not only the environment but also human health. Even though you may have installed a top-brand HVAC system, the air inside your house may still be polluted. The reason is a dirty air filter! While many people are aware of the dangers of outdoor air pollution, most of them overlook the impact of indoor air quality on their health.

Air filters play a crucial role in removing harmful particles from the air, but when they become clogged with dirt and debris, they can no longer function effectively. Thankfully, Hurliman Heating has plenty of experience dealing with filters and their challenges, and we’ll explain what health issues you might come across due to dirty air filters. We’ll also cover why keeping your filters clean is essential!

Common health issues due to dirty air filters

People with underlying respiratory issues like asthma and allergies are more prone to the adverse effects of a dirty air filter. However, it does not mean a dirty air filter does not affect healthy people. Here’s how a clogged or dirty air filter can have adverse effects on your health:

Respiratory issues

Poor indoor air quality can become a major cause of respiratory issues such as allergies, asthma, and bronchitis. When an air filter becomes clogged with dust, dirt, and other airborne particles, it restricts the airflow in your HVAC system. This restriction can lead to poor air quality in your home, making it difficult for you to breathe and causing respiratory issues.

Furthermore, when your air filter is dirty, it becomes a breeding ground for viruses, bacteria, and other harmful pathogens. These pathogens can exacerbate respiratory illnesses, leading to more severe symptoms and prolonged recovery times. If any of your family members have respiratory issues, it’s essential to change your air filter regularly to maintain healthy indoor air quality.


Poor indoor air quality can cause headaches and migraines, especially if you spend much time indoors. The particles trapped in a dirty air filter can irritate the sinuses and cause inflammation, leading to headaches and migraines.

Moreover, poor air quality can also cause fatigue, making headaches worse. If you notice that you or someone in your family is experiencing more headaches than usual, it may be time to check your air filter and replace it if necessary.

Skin irritation

Dirt and dust trapped in your air filter can also cause skin irritation. Breathing in poor-quality air can lead to dry skin, rashes, and other skin irritations. If you notice that your skin is dry or itchy, it may be due to poor air quality in your home.


As mentioned earlier, dust and dirt trapped in your air filter can contain harmful bacteria and viruses. A dirty air filter can also lead to infections. If someone in your family has a weakened immune system, it’s essential to change your air filter regularly to prevent infections. Otherwise, it may lead to unexplained and recurring sickness.

How to prevent a dirty air filter

Now that you know the health implications of a dirty air filter, let’s discuss how to prevent it. Here are some tips to keep your air filter clean and your indoor air quality healthy.

Regularly replace your air filter

One of the most essential things you can do to prevent a dirty air filter is to replace it regularly. How frequently you should change your air filter depends on various factors, including the kind of air filter you have, the size of the room, and the quantity of pollutants in the area.

As a general rule, you should replace your air filter every 1-3 months. If you have pets or live in an area with high pollution levels, you may need to replace your filter even more frequently.

Use high-quality air filters

Not all air filters are created equal. Some filters are more effective at trapping dust and pollutants than others. When choosing an air filter for your system, look for one with a high MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating. The MERV rating indicates how well the filter can trap particles of different sizes. A higher MERV rating means the filter is more effective at capturing smaller particles.

Keep your HVAC system clean

In addition to regularly replacing your air filter, keeping your HVAC system clean is essential. Dust and debris can accumulate on the system’s coils, blower, and other components, which can reduce its efficiency and cause the air filter to become dirty more quickly. Schedule regular maintenance appointments with a professional HVAC technician to have your system cleaned and inspected.

Address indoor air quality issues

It is time to take action if you’re experiencing indoor air quality issues, such as high dust or dry air levels. Consider investing in an air purifier or humidifier to help remove contaminants from the air. You may also want to reduce the dust and dirt in your home or office, such as regular vacuuming and using doormats to trap dirt and debris. 

Have HVAC experts from Hurliman Heating check your air filter

Don’t let a dirty air filter compromise indoor air quality and your HVAC system’s efficiency. Deteriorated air quality can cause several health issues, so it’s imperative you connect with us to replace clogged or dirty air filters in a timely manner.

Our HVAC experts at Hurliman Heating are proficient and experienced at identifying and resolving any kind of HVAC issue, including checking and replacing a dirty and clogged air filter. 
It’s always a better decision to have a professional manage the maintenance of your HVAC unit, so go ahead and call us next time you feel your HVAC unit is not working as it should be. Our experienced technicians will assess the condition of your air filter and recommend the best course of action to keep your HVAC system running smoothly and your indoor air clean and healthy.

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