Aug 27 2014

Your air conditioner’s air filter isn’t just there to help keep the air that comes out clean. In fact, it plays an essential role in the proper operation of your system. Changing or cleaning the air filter is one of the most important steps you can take to maintain your air conditioner, as it heads off all these potential issues, improves energy efficiency and helps you avoid spending money on air conditioning repairs.

Six Potential Problems

Here’s what can happen if you let air filter replacements fall by the wayside.

Short-Cycling: Your air conditioner is supposed to cycle on and off occasionally throughout the day, but a dirty air filter can cause those cycles to become more frequent than they need to be. Besides the noise pollution that comes with cycling, that means wasted energy and uncomfortable temperature changes.

Freezing Up: A good, clean air filter allows air to flow freely out of your unit. A dirty air filter restricts the flow of cold air, causing it to build up inside the air conditioner and lower the internal temperature. Given enough time, that buildup of cold air can eventually cause ice to form on the coils.

Uneven Cooling: Even if it’s not enough to cause freezing, that restricted airflow isn’t good for your air conditioner’s cooling power. You’ll notice uneven cooling with hot and cold spots, and that means lower comfort levels at a higher cost.

Allergen Buildup: If anyone in your home suffers from asthma or respiratory allergies, it’s especially important to keep the air filters clean. A dirty filter can cause allergens to build up in your duct system, and they’ll linger there for months. Whenever you have a forced-air system running, those allergens will be released into the air you breathe. You might even end up with a mold problem in the ducts.

General Wear and Tear: Air conditioners just last longer if they’re maintained properly. A good air filter helps to stop dust and dirt from building up on all of the unit’s internal components; a bad one will cause additional wear and tear that can lead to serious maintenance issues down the road. You may end up having to replace your air conditioner a year or two sooner, and you’ll likely be paying for expensive air conditioning repairs in the meantime.

Reduced System Efficiency: If you’re holding off on getting a replacement filter because of the cost, know that you’re only hurting your finances in the long run. An A/C unit with a dirty filter will use much more power to cool your home, and you’ll end up paying more on your utility bills.

Keeping Your A/C Maintained

Fortunately, the solution to all of these issues is simple. Depending on the type of filter, you’ll just need to replace or clean it monthly.

If your air conditioner has a reusable filter, you’ll need to handle it carefully to ensure that it keeps your air conditioner running at peak efficiency. Remove it from the unit, rinse it off with water and allow it to air dry completely before putting it back in. Sliding a wet filter back into your air conditioner is just asking for ice formation and other issues, and trying to wipe the filter dry is likely to damage its delicate surface.

If your unit uses disposable filters, it’s critical to get replacements that are designed specifically for your system. That means you’ll need to go to a local factory authorized dealer for models directly from your air conditioner’s manufacturer, not one-size-fits-all air filters from a hardware store. The cost may be a little higher, but you’ll more than make that back in increased system efficiency and performance.

In general, we recommend monthly air filter replacement a month, but that frequency depends somewhat on the type of filter you use. Advanced filters can last a little longer between cleanings and replacements, so consult the manufacturer for a recommended schedule. When in doubt, though, err on the side of more frequent replacement, not less.

A final tip: Never let your air conditioner run without a filter! Without having that filter in place, your unit will allow dust and debris to pile up on internal components, and that’s just asking for maintenance issues down the road. This generally isn’t a problem with disposable filters, but do make sure you’ve bought your replacement before you pull out the existing filter. Try to clean your reusable filter at a time when the air conditioner doesn’t need to be on anyway, such as a cool night.

HVAC Maintenance is a huge part of our business here at Coastal Heating & Air, as we’re always happy to help our friends and neighbors keep their heating and cooling systems in good working order. Give us a call to learn more about ways to maintain your air conditioner.

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