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Everyone knows that we should change the filter in our home heating, ventilating and air conditioning system, or HVAC system. Actually, doing that may be something else altogether. It's all about the where, when and how of doing it that leads us to procrastination and selective amnesia.

It's not difficult. The problem is in making it a priority.

Here's the industry standard rule for filters: At a minimum, change the filters every three months. A dirty filter will slow down airflow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool, wasting energy. A clean filter will prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system and leading to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.

Three options

1. Schedule yourself.

Mark your calendar. Set an alarm. Do something that will trigger your memory to check your filter(s) so you can get to the store to buy a new one. Or buy a bunch so you have them on hand. Don't assume you'll just remember. You probably won't until one day, years from now, you notice your utility bill has shot through the stratosphere; you have this weird cough; you see odd, dark shadows forming along the edges of your carpet; or your system dies a tragic, premature death. Don't let that happen. As long as you change your filter(s) often, go for the cheapest ones you can find that fit your system.

2. Make your own permanent filter.

Want to save money and stop wasting time trying to figure out which filter you need? Make your next filter a permanent electrostatic filter (also known as a washable one). The WEB Eco Adjustable and Washable Air Filter Plus (costs less than $30) is available in local home improvement centers and online. It can be cut to fit most filter cabinets, from 14 by 20 inches up to 20 by 25 by 1 inches. It's quite simple to do. Washable filters may be reused for five to 10 years. Electrostatic filters should be rinsed once a month, and prior to re-installation, they should be allowed to dry. Keep in mind that electrostatic filters are most effective when new and clean, so they should be washed frequently even if they don't appear to need it.

3. Automate.

I had a filthy filter wakeup call a few years ago. The scariest thing ever was opening that door on the HVAC system labeled "Filter." I cannot adequately describe it, but I can tell you that it was nearly black and covered in what looked like fur. So gross. I'm surprised the entire system didn't just blow up out of sheer rebellion for lack of attention.

That prompted me to get online to do some research. And that's how I found FilterEasy, a company that delivers the exact filter we need, just when we need to change it, at a cost that is cheaper than the very same filter at the home improvement center near our home. It's a great service.

It's really easy to set up a FilterEasy account online, identify the exact filter you need (they're listed by size -- including custom sizes) and identify the frequency of delivery. This takes all of about five minutes. Easy!

Now you can forget because you've put FilterEasy in charge of remembering.

The folks at FilterEasy are offering Everyday Cheapskate readers their first set of filters free (you'll just pay to ship). Just log on to EverydayCheapskate.com/filtereasy. Of course, you can cancel or make changes to your subscription at any time.

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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mary@everydaycheapskate.com|Everyday Cheapskate, Box 2099 Cypress, CA 90630

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