Filters & Detectors: How To Keep The Air Clean At Home

We already shared how house plants can keep your indoor air quality up to snuff. And we recently went on a clean-air mission, first snagging a few English Ivy plants of our own (to add to our Boston Fern and Burro Tail riddled home). Needless to say it felt pretty good introducing an army of air purifiers, and we didn’t stop there.

We also replaced the air filters for our heating and cooling system. This is something you should try to do every three months. We used to be lucky if we remembered to change them once in the winter and once in the summer, but thanks to our new programmable thermostat, we got a reminder this time (it actually allows us to record the date that we change our filters so it can gently prod us to do it again three months later). Smart little machine we got there.


We also seized the day and picked up a second carbon monoxide detector/fire alarm (it’s great that they make them multitask these days) to install near our gas fireplace in the den- one of the major carbon monoxide danger zones in any house (other scary sources: gas stoves, wood burning stoves, and gas heaters).


Carbon monoxide is no laughing matter (in fact we recently heard a bone chilling tale about a mother and her son slipping off to sleep and narrowly cheating death when the mother awoke disoriented and scared but had enough sense to run out of the house with her baby). Yup, another carbon monoxide detector (now we have one in the bedroom and one on the other end of the house in the den) is definitely worth a little peace of mind. And we’re even more confident that the air we breathe is so fresh and so clean.

What about you guys? Do you have other means to keep the air clean? Or other ways to remember when it’s time to replace those filters? Dish the air cleaning dirt. And for more general cleaning tips check out these streamlined strategies from Real Simple (who knew 4pm was the best time to clean?).

Images courtesy of


  1. says

    We changed our filter last month. I just write a reminder on my calendar and store it on the calendar on my phone (one way which everyone seems to live by, their phone). You reminded me to pick up the CM detector. I will do that when I am out getting plants. :) Thanks!

  2. says

    I also write a note to myself on the calendar as a filter changing reminder.

    In Colorado we’ve had a lot of recent Carbon Monoxide deaths (an entire family over Thanksgiving staying in a rented cabin, so sad), so my parents gave us CO detectors for each floor for Christmas – it’s definitely an important thing to have around!

  3. heather says

    I agree that having a CM detector is important. I have one in the basement near the furnace and one in the bedroom. Another thing to do is have your furnace checked yearly. Not only will it improve the efficiency of your furnace but they will detect CM leaks quicker than the detectors you buy will. I had a small leak this winter that the high-end tool they used found. He told me that the detectors you buy for your house will only go off if there is a high concentration of CM in your home – they are not sensitive enough to detect small leaks. So the detectors we have in our homes are the last resort for detecting CM – they essentially go off alerting you that you HAVE to get out of the house NOW whereas a furnace inspection will find small leaks before they become a problem.

    Another thing to improve your air quality is to have your vents cleaned. I’m having mine done in the spring (missed doing it before this winter) when I won’t be using the heater or air conditioner. Cleaning vents will remove pet hair, mold spores and other allergens.

  4. says

    I have a recurring item in my calendar for every 3 months to remind me to replace our filters. It also helps that we bought a bunch of filters at once about 5 months ago so we don’t have to go to the hardware store every 3 months. Carbon Monoxide detectors are on our list to get at our next hardware store run, too.

  5. tom says

    Have you guys looked into getting an electro-static air filter for your HVAC system?

    You can buy them at Lowes or HD for roughly $25 and you never have to replace just pull it out and clean it every few months or so. it just washes off with the garden hose or in the bathtub during winter. It takes a few hours to dry so you might want to buy a disposable one to use during that time or just keep the system off.

    • YoungHouseLove says


      Hmm, we’ll definitely have to look into the electro-static air filter idea. We inherited the house with a reusable filter and our HVAC guy said it was terribly inefficient (and probably responsible for my allergy attacks) so we switched to disposable filters thinking they were superior. But the idea of never having to replace something is intriguing indeed…


  6. says

    I go with the quarterly thing. I have bad allergies so I change it every three months. Every quarter of the year [Jan. April July October] I just know it’s time to do it. I use the purple Ultra Filter from 3M. We are getting a new programmable thermostat too, with energy cost rising I need to be sure it gets turned down. So I don’t forget to do it. BTW New reader to your blog and I love it. Keep up the awesome work.

  7. elizabeth says

    We have to change our intake filters monthly and vacuum them weekly b/c we have a big dog hair issue and our intake vents are in the floor (bad design). Because we had allergies, we switched to HEPA filters, but our HVAC guy told us to switch back b/c the HEPA filters clog up so easily and reduce the air intake too much.

    Does anybody know whether the HEPA room air filtering machines (not ionizers) work well?

  8. says

    This is back to your plant post…I just bought some plants and am looking for some good pots, for the floor. Any thoughts on good-looking pots? Modern, or just fresh traditional?

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Ikea has THE BEST white planters in all shapes and sizes for desk plants and floor plants alike. Clean lines and white ceramic construction make them the only ones we let in the door- and they even have great designs like subtle white-on-white vertical or horizontal stripes and even mod little leaf designs. Oh and the super cheap-o prices don’t hurt either.

      Stay tuned for a follow up post full of plant pics in our own home to see our favorites, where we put ’em, and what we put ’em in!


  9. Justin Nelson says

    Filters: I suggest changing them monthly, and as an HVAC guy I also do not like the HEPA filters.

    Also, on your thermostat, you can switch the fan motor from “auto”(meaning it comes on only when the system does) to “on” leaving it permanently on–ONLY IN WINTER!!! If you have a single speed fan motor, which most of you do, it may be too much during the coldest months, but otherwise you’ll use about a 150 watt light bulb worth of electricity while turning over & thus filtering you indoor air about 20 times per day vs. 7-8. Naturally, you’ll need to change the filters much more.

    Good choice on the programmable thermostat! I’ll be placing an ad on this great site soon, so will avoid a shameless free plug on this post

  10. says

    It is a fallacy that you change the filters every three months………… should check the filter so when it becomes clogged with dust and other things you know it should have been changed before that time so you increase the frequency of checking the filter until you find a happy medium for changing the filter and that time could change from season to season. A good electronic air cleaner will decrease the frequency of changing the filter and you will feel much better. I have seen people with ashtma and allergies actually feel better with an electronic air cleaner installed in their duct system.

  11. Middleschoolteacher says

    I want to replace my candles for soy candles because it’s healthier. I remember reading somewhere on your blog that you use them but can’t find it. Is there a brand you like that you can recommend? Thanks!

    • says

      We like the Method ones since they’re relatively easy to find and not super expensive (we get ours at Target whenever they go on clearance). Hope it helps!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *