Can You Detect Smoking in Furnace Filter?

Can you test a furnace filter to detect smoking and nicotine in your rental property is the question this week for Ask Landlord Hank. Remember Hank is not an attorney and is not offering legal advice. If you have a question for him please fill out his form below.

Dear Landlord Hank,

Can nicotine be detected in a furnace filter that hasn’t been changed in three years? (It is now a no-longer-smokers furnace in the rental.) How reliable is it to test a furnace filter for nicotine?


Hi, Carol,

If you’ve had a smoking tenant in your property for quite some time, just changing the filter is not going to be sufficient to get rid of the smoke smell in your system to detect smoking.

It is more than likely that cigarette smoke has left a film on the system’s ducting and condenser coils, which will continue to produce that stale-smoke odor until it is removed by a special cleaning process.

It is a good idea to have your system cleaned once or twice per year to get rid of any buildup of dirt, dust, smoke particles, etc., as these things create an insulating layer on the coils and reduce the coolness from leaving the coils.

You can also have an in-duct air-purification system installed to prevent any outdoor smoke from getting into your home.


Hank Rossi

Source: Rental Housing Journal

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