The Absolute Importance of Air Conditioner Filters

Most modern homes today include air conditioners. The need for air conditioning is substantial, especially during the scorching summer months or in areas where the hot sun and intense heat are present year-round. Air conditioning not only provides for a cool, comfortable temperature but also helps maintain the indoor air quality.

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When purchasing a new air conditioning system, homeowners often consider many factors including capacity, efficiency, installation costs, etc. However, on-going maintenance and repairs often don’t make the list of considerations. Some of these maintenance tasks, including air conditioner filter replacement, will lead to inefficiencies in your air conditioning system if neglected.

What causes inefficient air conditioning performance?

Regular maintenance is essential to optimize the performance and life span of your air conditioner.  The following are some of the tasks that should be done on a periodic basis:

  • Changing clogged and dirty air conditioner filters
  • Inspection of the seal between a window air conditioner and the window frame
  • Cleaning and protecting outdoor units from debris
  • Checking and cleaning any dirt from the evaporator coil
  • Combing bent coil fins back into shape using a fin comb

Failure to perform these regular maintenance tasks, either done by the homeowner or a licensed HVAC technician, can drastically reduce the performance of air conditioning units. Changing out the air filters is one task that can typically be handled by the homeowner and provides a significant benefit in terms of the unit’s efficiency and air quality.

What do air conditioner filters do?

Air conditioner filters are generally made from fiberglass, paper or cloth.  The filter’s primary purpose is to collect particulate matter such as dust, dirt, pollen, mold, pet dander and bacteria from the air circulating through the system. Carbon filters made with non-woven polyester and charcoal also eliminate odors.

What are the benefits of air conditioner filters?

There are many benefits to having clean air conditioner filters. Here are five benefits you may not have considered.

Air filters screen out extraneous particulate matter. The air filter separates airborne particles and other debris from the air. The clean air then circulates through the home and improves air quality. Clean air filters help reduce respiratory health issues such as asthma, allergies, and other breathing problems.

Clean filters boost unit energy efficiency and performance. AC units with clean air filters use up to 15% less energy than those with a clogged or dirty filter. This promotes system efficiency and performance, saving you money on your electricity bills.  Lower energy bills make filter replacement even more affordable.

Clean filters are quieter and cooler. Dirty filters or dust and debris collecting inside the air conditioning unit will force the motors and fans to work harder to distribute airflow. This can also result in generating more heat, friction, and loud noise. Cleaning or replacing your filters every month will help keep your home cool and peaceful.

Clean filters reduce the chances of mechanical malfunction. Old, clogged and deteriorated air filters can also lead to the breakdown of moving mechanical parts within the air conditioning unit due to debris and dust collecting inside.

Clean filters extend the lifespan of your AC. Poor or irregular maintenance of air conditioning systems can cut the life expectancy of the unit in half. If you want to get the most value out of your investment, ensure that the scheduled maintenance is performed before the winter season and check your system’s air filters monthly, cleaning or replacing as needed.

How are air conditioner filters rated for performance?

Air filter ratings can impact the performance of your air conditioner and air quality. Filters are rated based on the MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) scale. This scale runs from 1 to 16, with filters rated at 16 being the highest performers and those rated at 1 being the least efficient. HVAC service professionals recommend choosing an air filter with at least a 7 MERV Rating.

Here’s how the different MERV ratings break down in terms of efficiency and performance.

  • MERV 1-4: Air filters of MERV rating 1-4 provide only essential filtration and are available at low cost.
  • MERV 6-8: These filters remove more pollutants and dust than MERV 1-4 air filters and are frequently used in residential settings.
  • MERV 9-13: These are high-quality air filters that capture both smaller and larger particles.
  • MERV 13-16: Air filters with a MERV rating above 13 provide the highest level of filtration. They will trap and remove particles down to 0.3 microns from the air.

What different types of filters are available?

There are three basic types of air filters: fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic.

Fiberglass Air Filters: This common type of air filter uses strands of spun-together fiberglass. Fiberglass air filters are the least expensive type and provide a minimum level of filtration. They remove only larger particles, leaving much pollution and debris remaining in the air.

Pleated Air Filters: Pleated filters are also very common and they offer better filtration than fiberglass filters. Pleated filters are tighter, trapping more dust and other contaminants resulting in better air quality. There are disposable and washable/reusable versions available.

Electrostatic Air Filters: Electrostatic filters use the power of static electricity to aid in filtration and are among the most effective air filters available. These filters use cotton and paper fibers to create a strong electrical charge to attract some of the smallest particles in the air, making them ideal for those with allergies. They tend to be very long-lasting compared to fiberglass or pleated filters and are also more expensive. Electrostatic filters also come in disposable or washable versions.

Regularly checking on and replacing or cleaning your air conditioner’s filters is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get the most out of your A/C unit. From air quality to energy efficiency to unit longevity, clean air filters are an inexpensive and easy way to keep you and your family breathing easy and staying cool through the summer and beyond. If you have any questions about the best air filters for your system and your household’s needs, contact your local HVAC professional.

 

Gary Russell