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What is an Air Conditioner Filter?
So, what is the air conditioning filter and why is it important? The filter in an air conditioner is usually a paper or mesh panel that is used to control the quality of the circulated air by filtering out dust and debris.
However, as the filter gradually builds up more and more dust and dirt it can become clogged, allowing dust to enter both the system and the room. Not only does this reduce the quality of the air in the room, when dust and dirt get into the air conditioner itself it can cause wear and tear on the inner components.
Additionally, as the filter becomes clogged, less air can flow through it meaning that your air conditioner has to work harder and for longer to produce cool air. This can cause the air conditioner to prematurely age and ultimately result in having to replace the unit sooner than expected.
How often should you change your AC filter?
How often you will need to change your air conditioner’s filter will vary with the climate where you live, the time of year, and the type of filter. During peak season (usually just summer but in hotter climates peak season can extend into spring and autumn) it is recommended that you change your filter every month.
Although it is recommended to change the filter once a month, most people won’t want to be paying a qualified technician to simply change a filter once a month, so why not save time and money and learn how to change it yourself?
What You Need To Know
1. Locate the filter
Before you can begin changing your air conditioner’s filter you will need to locate it within the unit. This can sometimes be tricky as there are multiple places it could be. For example, in some systems the filter will be located within the return air duct (this is the duct that draws warm air from the room into the unit). However, there may be multiple return air ducts in a single system.
If the filter is not in a return air duct it may be located in the main vent (this it where the cool air comes out of). If you’re not sure where the filter is located the easiest way to find it is to simply ask your air conditioning technician during your annual service.
Note: make sure that the air conditioner is turned off completely before replacing the filter (no air should be passing through the system).
2. Find the right replacement filter
You will also need to know the size and type of filter that your air conditioner needs. If you can locate the filter there will usually be a size printed on the side of it. Alternatively, simply ask your air conditioning technician – they may even be able to order some in for you.
When changing your air conditioner’s filter need to make sure that you get the right type of filter as there are both disposable and reusable options available. Disposable filters are usually made from cardboard frames with a paper or mesh fiber surface. Conversely, reusable filters will usually have a metal frame with a surface coating to make the filter washable.
How To Change An Air Conditioning Filter
1. Turn off the power
The number one thing you need to do before changing the filter on your air conditioner is turn off the power source. This is important for two reasons:
If electricity is still running through the system you are at risk of coming into contact with live voltage.
If air is still flowing through the system when you remove the filter, the dirt and debris caught in the filter can become dislodged and may be sucked into the unit. This can result in damage to the inner components of the system.
2. Remove old filter
Once the power to the air conditioner has been turned off completely the first step is to simply slide the old filter out of the unit. (You may need to remove the filter cap or grate in order to do so).
3. Check filter condition
Once you have removed the filter you will need to check its condition as it may not need to be replaced yet. To do this, simply hold it up to a light. If little to no light shines through the filter it is a sign that the filter needs to be replaced.
Note that many factors will contribute to how long each filter lasts before needing to be replaced. If you find that your filter is clogged more than usual be sure to check it again slightly earlier as high use could be causing the filter to become clogged more quickly. Similarly, you may find that even though you check the filter each month, some months it is still in working condition. This is likely to occur in colder months when the air conditioner is used much less frequently.
4. Clean the filter or get a new one
Depending on the type of filter you have (reusable or disposable) you will need to either clean or replace the old filter. If you are using a reusable filter check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean it. Or if you are using disposable filters, you will simply need to buy a replacement (ensuring that it is the same size and type as the old one).
5. Insert new or cleaned filter
Once you have either cleaned your reusable filter or purchased a replacement for your disposable filter you will simply need to slide it back into the air conditioner in the same place that you removed the dirty filter from.
However, be sure to put it back in the right way (the arrow on the frame should be pointing away from the return air duct in the direction that the air flows). This is important as filters are only designed to work one way.
Now that you have replaced the filter simply put the filter cap back on or refasten the grate.