This post has only the loosest relevance to plastic. Some ducts are made from plastic. And they would get very dusty if not for the plastic filters which catch much of the particulate before it enters the furnace. Of course, I didn’t know any of this before I read Burbanmom’s post a month ago about how we should be changing or cleaning our furnace filters monthly in order to help our heating systems work more efficiently and save energy.
My first reaction was, “Furnace filter? I didn’t even know we had a furnace, much less a filter to clean. We are renters. We program a little box on the wall to turn the heat up to 65F when we’re home and down to 60F when we’re out or asleep, as per Crunchy Chicken’s Freeze Yer Buns Challenge. Hot air magically comes out of vents in the ceiling. You mean, there’s more to it than that?” So I Googled “change furnace filter” and found many photos like the one to the left. We must have a furnace somewhere, and according to the photo, the filter is pretty easy to change, right?
I am nothing if not curious, like the kitties, and thrifty, so I decided that if changing/cleaning furnace filters would help me save energy and money, as Soots is my witness, I’ll find out where that furnace is and change or clean the filter! I had noticed this big vent in the livingroom wall. Just figured it was another magical place that heat came out. Could this be where the furnace lives? I unscrewed the screws and looked inside.
Um… No. This is not where the furnace lives. Not to be thwarted so easily, I reached in and up and pulled out this:
Cough. Looks like a filter to me. It’s blue plastic under the thick layers of dust. According to instructions I found online, this is a permanent type of filter that can be cleaned and replaced. That made me happy. Not another piece of plastic waste to add to my weekly tally. I put it in the bathtub and sprayed out most of the dust with the pulsating setting on the handheld shower massage until the water ran clear. It took awhile. I don’t know if that thing had ever been cleaned. And we’re supposed to do this once a month?
So anyway, I left the filter outside over night to dry. The next day, it was ready to put back into the hole. But I still hadn’t found the furnace. Climbing into the wall hole and looking up, I saw this:
A Duct! I knew it was a duct because I’d seen the movie, Brazil. I learn a lot of things from the movies. This duct seemed to lead to the attic. Could the furnace be in the attic? Do they even put furnaces in the attic? I Googled “furnace in the attic” and found that yes, they do indeed install natural gas furnaces in attics sometimes. It was time for yet another adventure! I climbed up into the attic and, making my way through all the crap we have stored up there, found this!
And some more ducts. A lot more in fact. I wondered if there was another filter inside the furnace. You see, all the photos online were like the one showing the woman pulling the filter out of the furnace itself. So I thought maybe my furnace had an extra filter hidden inside somewhere. I opened it up and looked inside.
But there wasn’t anything in there that looked like a filter. I was confused. Then I remembered that my sister’s husband in Maryland is a contractor. He would know the answers. (Of course, my landlord is also a contractor but for some reason I was too embarassed to call and ask him. He’s always in a big hurry.)
So I called Jess in Maryland tonight and he explained what many of you reading this have known all along… that while the hot air comes OUT through the vents in the ceiling, it goes back IN through the big vent in the wall. That vent is an in-take, and the air is filtered BEFORE it goes back into the furnace. So I had found the filter after all, and I had cleaned it properly and put it back.
The thing is, I think I put it back upside down with the fuzzy part facing up because I thought the air came down through that filter rather than up. I’ll have to flip tonight.
Has this post been a bit air-headed, a little long-winded, and perhaps twisted and turned a tad too much? Sorry about that. I could have had a simple furnace filter to find and clean, but how interesting would that have been?