Calendar icon February 6, 2023

Pleated Filters Won't Damage Your Airflow

Let's bust some myths about airflow and pleated air filters.


A myth. An old wives' tale. A misconception. Whatever you want to call it, that’s what this is. If you have ever had an HVAC technician come to examine the heating and air conditioning systems in your home, there’s a chance you may have had the common refrain tossed your way.

“Use the cheapest filters you can find. The thicker pleated ones restrict too much airflow and will starve your system.”

Is this true? No, it isn’t. It is true that airflow is lessened, albeit marginally, with a pleated air filter versus a cheap fiberglass air filter, but the risks of lessened airflow, a direct result of what is known as pressure drop, are assumed, and they are assumed incorrectly.

What’s really happening?

Myth one: Pleated filters will blow out your fan motor

It’s worth noting that nobody specifies what they mean by “blow out” or “break down.” You may have heard the phrase “starve your unit of air.” The implication is that by reducing the amount of airflow into your HVAC system, the motor that powers the fan will overwork trying to move air and it will burn out, almost like a car red-lining for too long before the engine explodes. The result is a catastrophic failure that occurs in one instant. This is absolutely not true.

There is no mechanical connection between a fan motor and an air filter. The fan is going to do the same thing, regardless of how much airflow is being allowed by your filter. Unless you have what is known as an ECM motor, your fan is going to move at the same speed and consume the same amount of power regardless of how significant the pressure drop is. The motor does not know what the airflow levels are, nor does it have any way to adjust its workload for such a thing. Thus, it's not going to "work harder."

ECM motors are more advanced motors that electronically adjust their speed to account for airflow levels. They will increase power as necessary to move air. ECM motors are more efficient and longer-lasting as they do not use power that they do not need.

You may have heard a technician tell you that the fan motor draws more power with less airflow. This is also false. Ironically, it's the exact opposite. Recall that, unless you're using an ECM, your fan motor has no capacity to say "we need more power." It's off or it's on. So with less airflow, the fan is actually moving less air, which requires less energy, so the machine draws less power to keep it running at the same level. It seems counterintuitive at first, but makes quite a bit of sense when you think about it. Note that this does not mean bad airflow is actually good. You still want a low pressure drop, but this increased power usage is a myth.

What will happen in situations where your pressure drop is too high is the fan will need to run longer in order to achieve the desired temperature in the home because it is cooling or heating less air at a time. As with anything, parts will wear with run time, so the risk with significantly decreased airflow is more about decreasing lifespan by increasing use, not some explosive disaster. This leads us perfectly into myth two.

Myth two: Pleated air filters reduce the lifespan of your HVAC system

So we’ve established that installing a pleated filter is not going to cause these catastrophic failures that many spout off about in totally healthy HVAC systems. But it’s true that they do have a higher pressure drop, thus allow less airflow, than cheaper fiberglass filters. So won’t they shorten the lifespan of your unit?

Well, no, not really. Again, the common refrain is that pleated air filters will restrict airflow, but specifics regarding what impact that will have, and how significant it is, are usually left out. We’re not going to leave those out.

We conducted a study in our lab to specifically test airflow differences between a pleated and fiberglass filters, and how those differences would affect lifespan. The results were interesting.

We found that with a MERV 13 pleated filter, which has a pressure drop about 2.5x that of a fiberglass filter, the system would need to run about 3.5% longer to achieve the desired temperature. Assuming an eight-year lifespan for your HVAC system, with identical usage and no external factors (that part is important), you would need to replace the fan motor in your HVAC system about 3 months earlier with a pleated filter than with a fiberglass filter. Another way to look at that is that a system that lasts 96 months with a fiberglass filter would last about 93 months with a pleated filter, a difference that is virtually negligible, and again, does not account for other factors that contribute to wear.

Now, time for another important part. We mentioned the test occurred with no external factors in totally identical scenarios. You’re not going to have this in the real world. Mechanical systems like your HVAC unit will have some natural variance in lifespan, and there are other factors impacting the longevity of your equipment that will outweigh the difference the filter type alone makes, leaving the aforementioned difference in lifespan immaterial.

The test only accounts for airflow. It doesn’t account for risks to your system that result from small particle buildup on your AC coils, which are higher with cheaper filters that catch less. This situation can also shorten the lifespan of your unit by requiring more use of the system, as heat is absorbed less efficiently because of the film of particles forming around the coils.

“Freezing up” refers to condensation around your coils freezing as a result of the refrigerant becoming too cold. It does not mean the refrigerant itself is freezing. Modern refrigerant will freeze at -251 degrees Fahrenheit or below. If it reaches that temperature, you likely have other concerns, such as the impending Ice Age.

We also conducted a study with current customers of Second Nature, determining how often participants needed to call HVAC technicians for issues both before and after starting Second Nature.`

second nature hvac ticket request study chart

Because Second Nature helps homeowners ensure they are changing their filters on time, and the boogey man stuff around pleated air filters has proven to be largely nonsense, customers see their HVAC issues decline when participating in the service.

So why do these myths persist?

Simple question, simple answer. It used to be that way. The components of an HVAC system have improved in construction and durability over time, while the construction of pleated air filters has improved to maintain high levels of filtration while minimizing pressure drop.

In short, pleated filters have innovated the way the fibers are woven, as well as what they are made of, to increase filtering ability while decreasing the density of the weave. Modern-day pleated air filters have relatively low pressure drops as a result, and are not going to cause significantly shortened lifespans unless you never remember to change it.

Many HVAC technicians who are veterans of the trade learned their craft before these innovations, back when a pleated filter could more significantly reduce the lifespan of your unit. Thus the myths persist because they used to be more true than they are today and ever will be again.

Another reason is that HVAC issues caused by a clogged air filter are incorrectly attributed to the filter, not the failure to change it. One-inch pleated filters should be changed at least every three months, and four or more inch pleated filters should be changed about every six months. If you leave a pleated air filter in your air return for two years, it will clog with pollutants and eventually reduce airflow to zero. Shortened lifespans that result from this are avoided by changing your filter on time, not by using a cheaper filter. A pleated air filter that is changed on the appropriate interval is not going to create these airflow issues.

Do you want to use quality air filters, but you find yourself forgetting to change them? No worries. Our subscription service makes it impossible to forget.

Keep learning

Chambers Theory Endorses Second Nature’s Resident Benefits Package

Chambers Theory is a world-renowned property management team with clients in more than 30 countries worldwide. They specialize in serving the U.S. military, State Department, and Foreign Services families. Their motto “Real Estate With Intelligence” is more than just a saying. It’s on full display through the introductory videos for landlords and residents on their website in seven languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Vietnamese, French, Croatian, and English) - all spoken fluently by their own property management (PM) team. Since its founding in 2018, Chambers Theory has been achieving extraordinary performance benchmarks. They’ve led the marketplace in delivering the “Golden Triangle of Success” to their clients, which means the lowest vacancy, the highest average rents, and the highest quality of tenants of any property management firm in its same service area. They’ve also donated over $100,000 to local charities and community organizations, while also leading the way in promoting sustainability practices in real estate and property management services. Their outstanding team attributes their success to their ability to develop and utilize their emotional intelligence skills to capacity to care with all their interactions with both landlords and residents. That’s why they fully endorse the Resident Benefits Package at Second Nature! Find out more about what a Resident Benefits Package is, its benefits, and how it can help create a Triple Win for you, as well as your residents and investors. Related: The State of Resident Experience Report

Calendar icon July 18, 2024

Read more

Investor Experience Platform™️ IXP™️

An Investor Experience Platform™️ (IXP) in property management is a suite of products, services, and benefits offered by property management companies to property investors. Just like a resident benefits package is a way to drive value for residents, investors, and property managers, the IBP™️ is an innovative approach to property management that focuses on driving value for an investor's assets and turning that value into profit for the property management company. In this article, we’ll dig into the different features that an Investor Experience Platform™️ can include, and how those benefit not just investors, but property managers and residents, too. What Is an Investor Experience Platform™️ (IXP)? As stated above, an Investor Experience Platform™️ (IXP™️) is a comprehensive suite of services that offer property investors higher quality property management, stability, and profit. An IBP™️ typically includes concierge-level services beyond basic property management – such as property insurance policies, eviction guarantees, rent guarantees, maintenance plans, asset performance reports, etc. These services are aimed at maximizing the investor’s assets, stability and convenience, profitability, and peace of mind in managing their properties. They're commonly managed through an investor experience platform to securely manage and monitor the performance of these assets online, which we'll discuss later. The first step to outlining an IBP™️ is to define what your basic management fee means and covers. If the answer is, it’s collecting rent, handling maintenance, and general communication – does that include maintenance coordination or is that a separate fee? Does it include asset reporting or is that an additional service? In your management agreement, define what the management fee is, what it covers, and how much it is. An IBP™️ can be an effective tool for articulating the new and differentiated things that an investor wouldn’t be able to do on their own and that you are offering beyond basic property management. Articulate your unique and differentiated services (IBP™️) and use that as a tool for positioning and charging for what it’s worth. What’s Included in An Investor Experience Platform™️? An Investor Experience Platform™️ should include a range of solutions to help deliver consistency, insight, and asset protection to a property owner’s portfolio. After all, professional property managers don’t have to be functional managers of a home – they can be strategic partners in the management of financial assets. You might hear services similar to the IBP™️ called an “owner benefit package,” but at Second Nature, we believe that the “investor” term is useful in encouraging a longer-term mindset, and emphasizes the economic value professional property management can bring. According to Eric Wetherington, VP of Strategic Initiatives at PURE Property Management: “As property managers, we need to think more like asset managers. This client made an investment, and we should be guiding that client through managing that investment, not just collecting rent.” To build and manage a winning IBP™️, property managers need an Investor Experience Platform that unlocks scalable product and service customization, digitized onboarding, accounting policy automation, and more. In addition, Investor Experience Platforms provide transparency and convenience for your investors. Here are some of the most valuable services that property managers can offer through an innovative Investor Experience Platform™️. Property insurance program Similar to offering a renters insurance program through an RBP in the lease agreement, property management companies can offer an insurance plan to investors to cut costs and ensure the safety of their assets. Most management agreements will include the requirement that the investor carries insurance on the property and that the property manager is additionally insured. But what if you as the property manager could help manage that for the investor – at scale? Property Insurance for investors should have dynamic pricing based on individual investors’s property portfolio and needs. The benefit beyond flexibility is the savings they’ll see on their premiums while also getting insurance that’s tailored to the needs of their specific property class. At Second Nature, we work primarily with single-family rental properties and small multi-family residences. Property Insurance Programs can bring scale that will drive economic value for the investor over what they could get retail on their own. They’d still have the option to go get their own insurance that meets requirements, but they can pay you a small fee to manage it for them. Rent guarantee An IBP™️ can include a number of financial guarantees to protect property investors and drive ancillary revenue for PMCs. A rent guarantee, or rent protection, ensures a consistent rental income to investors by protecting them against resident defaults or non-payment of rent. If a resident fails to pay rent, the property management company covers the unpaid amount and takes necessary steps for eviction or collection, providing financial security and minimizing the risk for property owners. Rent guarantees work for professional property management companies that have enough properties to balance the loss of rent if a resident doesn’t pay. The risk is low and the additional profit from fees for this guarantee can have a very high ROI, while driving satisfaction and stability for the investor. Plus, if you’re using services in an RBP to help incentivize on-time rent payments, you’ll rarely find yourself out in the cold. Eviction protection guarantee An eviction protection guarantee also goes beyond the normal scope of property management services and can be used as a secondary source of revenue. Eviction Protection is a service provided by property management companies to property investors that offers additional security and financial protection in the event of an eviction. Under this guarantee, the property management company assumes the costs associated with the eviction process, including legal fees and court expenses. It helps alleviate the financial burden on property investors and provides peace of mind by ensuring that they are safeguarded against potential losses resulting from resident evictions. The eviction guarantee helps protect property owners from the complexities and potential costs associated with evictions, ensuring a smooth and efficient resolution to tenant-related issues. Pet guarantees & other guarantees A pet guarantee is a service offered by property management companies to property investors that aims to address any potential issues related to allowing pets in rental properties. It typically involves implementing policies and procedures to ensure responsible pet ownership, such as thorough pet screening, pet agreements, and collecting additional pet deposits or fees. The pet guarantee may also include services like pet damage insurance or assistance with pet-related issues during the lease term. It provides property investors with a framework to accommodate residents with pets while minimizing risks and maintaining the condition of the property. For many residents, finding a pet-friendly apartment increases retention and profitability. They’re willing to stay longer and pay more for a pet-friendly place. And–get this–pet damage is less likely to happen than damage from kids! It’s not a huge risk to the asset, but can provide a big benefit in terms of satisfied, longer-term residents. Maintenance plan Home warranties are a four-letter word for property managers. They’re a massive headache to deal with, and yet there’s high demand for them among property investors. Because of that, most property managers charge a fee for home warranties, for each they have to file. Imagine if there was a world where home warranties weren’t needed. Here’s the thing: Professional property managers already have the vendor network and the know-how to coordinate maintenance jobs. What they don’t usually have is a product that’s priced to give the investor the experience they want. Let’s say right now an investor is paying $50 a month for a cheap home warranty. The warranty only covers 40% of issues and it creates all these extra people and friction in the middle. For anything moderately significant that goes wrong with a property, PMCs generally must contact the investor for permission to get work done. It’s all a massive hassle and loses time in maintenance requests that leave residents frustrated. What if there was a product that costs, say, $150 to $200 a month but it actually covered everything? Instead of having sudden expenses and emergencies, this maintenance plan smooths out the experience and makes it more predictable for the investor. For PMs, it means taking the initiative on fixes without waiting for approval. Imagine a world where you didn’t have to get owner approvals for 95% of maintenance issues – because they’re already budgeted for and already paid for. For residents, it means better maintenance, and faster. Another Triple Win! Asset performance reports Another piece focuses on property managers as asset managers. Think about any investment app, like Robinhood, Acorns, etc. You can log in to these apps any time, 24/7, and see how your stock and investments are performing. In most investment classes, you can see in real time how your assets are performing. Why shouldn’t property investors have that as well? An IBP™️ can include exactly that: a dashboard or online portal that shows investors regular reports on how their property is doing. They could get updates on the value of their home over time, the home price appreciation, rent price over time, and project rent growth, typically maintenance costs and how they’re doing against that, and more. Resident Benefits Package Another piece to include in your IBP™️ is to highlight the benefits of your resident benefits package to your investors. Explain how features like a filter delivery program protect their assets and reduce HVAC repair costs. Show how a renters insurance program can ensure coverage and protection. Give numbers on how credit reporting incentivizes on-time rental payments and helps ensure financially stable renters. Explain how a movie-in concierge saves both time, headache, and money. Each of the pillars of an RBP is critical to encouraging better resident behavior, increasing renter retention and lease renewal rates, reducing vacancies, and more – all primary goals for a property investor. A note about Rent Advance Programs There’s been due buzz about “Rent Advance” offerings, though many advise caution when approaching this financial product. It works in some ways like cash advance programs, which can satisfy urgent needs, but not be more valuable for anyone long term. The way it works is PMs offer to send a year of rent upfront to the investor in a big chunk, and collect monthly from the resident. The investor typically pays a 5-10% premium on the advance, which can be their entire expected return. So the question becomes, where do they put that cash to get a better return instead? Another thing to think about is who would actually use this product. Investors who don’t have enough cash on hand? How does that benefit anyone in the long run? What happens when there’s a big maintenance bill later? Does this encourage better decisions and practices by the investor? To date, there’s been pretty low adoption of this program, which is another sign it may not be hugely beneficial to everyone involved. But plenty of innovations start that way, evolve, and find traction. One case where it might be a value generator is if an investor is looking to take a cash advance and put it toward a down payment for another house. That would benefit the property manager as well, promising more business, and the PM could offer a lower rate for getting more properties to make the financing more attractive than hard money loans or other alternatives. The jury is still out here, it’s an interesting one to track. How Can Investors and Property Managers Benefit From an Investor Experience Platform™️? Investors and property managers can benefit from an Investor Experience Platform™️ in several ways. They’re also great for residents in the sense they build more stability and quality into the renting process. Here are just some of the benefits of an IBP™️. Enhanced investor attraction An Investor Experience Platform™️ provides incentives and advantages that can attract more investors. Financial guarantees and protections against the risks associated with evictions or late payments can increase stability, while services like a maintenance plan can ensure premium care of their property assets without increasing their workload. By offering attractive perks, property managers can differentiate their offerings and generate greater investor interest. Increased investor retention Both IBP™️s and RBPs help build loyalty with residents and investors. By fostering a strong relationship and demonstrating ongoing value, property managers can build trust and loyalty among investors, and retain them over the long term. IBP™️s help establish the stability, transparency, and asset growth for a real estate investment that an investor hopes to achieve. Improved property performance An Investor Experience Platform™️ can also contribute to improved property performance. For example, by offering discounted property management fees or access to professional services at reduced rates, property managers can help investors optimize their returns and reduce costs. Additionally, incentives such as rent guarantees or eviction protection can mitigate risk for investors and attract more capital to the property. Streamlined communication and transparency A well-designed Investor Experience Platform™️ facilitates effective communication and promotes transparency between property managers and investors. This can involve regular reporting on financial performance, property updates, and the sharing of relevant market insights. Transparent and consistent communication builds trust and confidence among investors, fostering a positive and long-lasting relationship. Competitive advantage A comprehensive Investor Experience Platform™️ can give property managers a competitive edge in the market. When investors have access to exclusive benefits and advantages, they are more likely to choose a property managed by a company that offers a compelling package – and to recommend it to others. Say hello to increased investment inflow and a stronger market position for your PMC. Should You Make an Investor Experience Platform™️ Mandatory? The first thing most property managers ask us when we’re talking about an RBP or an IBP™️ is: Should I make this mandatory for all investors or do I make it a flexible opt-in/opt-out program? Unlike RBPs, where best practices are more proven and established, different PMs are taking different approaches with their IBP™️s. Some have a mandatory level of service set at a flat price. Others may say they’re fine offering a base level of service without these differentiated products, giving investors the choice to simply pay a baseline management fee and opt out of the IBP™️ premium service. Some may offer a baseline to all investors and then give them the chance to opt in for premium IBP™️ services. There are a lot of ways to do it. With the RBP, we’ve found that making it mandatory does not generate nearly as much pushback as people expect – and can be a strong value add overall. Final Thoughts About an Investor Experience Platform™️ The Investor Experience Platform™️ is an innovative way to generate ancillary income and create more value for investors and residents. Similar to Second Nature’s premier Resident Benefits Package, the IBP™️ can deliver high-quality service for investor experience – and help create a triple win for investors, residents, and property management companies. The IBP™️ reinforces the value of a professional property management company for investors and helps differentiate you from the crowd. Stay tuned to learn more about the latest in the IBP™️ space, or learn more about how a resident benefits package can launch a whole new level of value for your PMC.

Calendar icon July 17, 2024

Read more

Receive articles straight to your inbox

Deliver the ultimate resident experience

Our Resident Benefits Package gives residents everything they want without all the work.