Replacing your air conditioning filter regularly will not only improve the efficiency of your air conditioner but may even prolong its life. In fact, it's the very first step you should take when you're performing routine maintenance of your home's air conditioning system.
When you do not replace your air conditioning filter, dirt, dust and grime block the flow of air, forcing it to bypass the filter and carry dirt directly into the evaporator coil. Because the coil is the part of your air conditioning unit that absorbs heat, you want to keep the coil clean to keep it functioning smoothly and to prevent your compressor and fans from failing. Fortunately, changing the filter is the single easiest way to prevent air conditioning problems in the future - and it isn't as intimidating as it sounds if you follow these tips below:
- Location. Your filter will be located somewhere along the duct that returns air from the house and to the air conditioner. Filters are often located in the air conditioner itself or in ceilings, walls or furnaces.
- System. Different air conditioning filters use different filtration methods to clean the air. Two of the less expensive types of filters use either a fine coating around strands of fiberglass or numerous folded paper pleats to filter the air. There are also reusable ones that use an electrostatic charge to filter the air (these need to be cleaned rather than replaced). Although those that use an electrostatic charge are more costly to start with, over the long term they may end up saving you money, and of course, they are more environmentally friendly as well. To determine which system you have, remove the filter and look at it (it's usually pretty easy to distinguish the differences). If you cannot identify it by sight, you can always bring it with you to the store.
- Frequency. If you do have a disposable rather than a reusable air conditioning filter, check it every month. Chances are that you will end up replacing it every month to two months during the summer season. You may need to replace it more frequently if you have pets or a smoker in the house, if your house is particularly dusty (say if you live next to a dirt road or are in the midst of a remodeling project) or if your air conditioner receives frequent use. Keeping up with regular changes will prevent costly repair down the line.
- Size. When purchasing the replacement filter, be sure to measure the existing filter first. My favorite trick is to keep the box so that I can be sure I am buying the correct one. However, if you don't have the actual box, use a tape measure instead and measure the filter to the closest eighth of an inch so that you can be sure you are buying the correct one for your system. There is nothing more frustrating than coming home with a new filter that is an eighth of an inch too big or too small.
- Efficiency. Don't be fooled into thinking that replacing your filters less frequently can save you money. Though these are not inexpensive, the efficiency of your air conditioner is greatly increased when the filters are clean. No matter what type you use, make a note to yourself to check it often and to replace it when it starts looking fuzzy.
That's all there is to it! If you replace the air conditioner filters on a regular basis, you'll find that it's an easy way to keep your system running smoothly and efficiently.