Air Conditioner Filter Basics – Essential Part of Heating and Air Conditioning

When it comes to staying cool during those hot summer months, you rely heavily on your home’s air conditioning unit. However, taking the proper measures to ensure it’s working at its most optimal is a necessity. Understanding air conditioner filters is a must so that you can have a highly functioning system that allows your family to be breathing in clean air while indoors. 

Air Filter Function

To learn the importance of an air filter for your air conditioning system, you need first to understand its function. An air filter will typically be made from a pleated paper, cardboard, or fiberglass material encased in a cardboard frame. Each air conditioner system will require an air filter that is specified for its model number. 

The air filter works to clean the air that circulates through your heating and cooling systems. Filters remove many unhealthy particles from your indoor air, including:

  • Pet Dander
  • Lint
  • Mold And Mold Spores
  • Pollen
  • Dust And Dirt
  • Bacteria

Understanding MERV Ratings

It’s important to note that there are varying levels of filter quality. It’s kind of like the difference between driving a Toyota Corolla and a BMW 5 Series. Your higher quality filters will remove more contaminants and will cost more money. The efficiency of a filter is indicated in its MERV rating. 

MERV ratings run from a low of 1 to a high of 16. The higher the MERV rating, the better the filtration of the air filter for your air conditioner system. Here’s a quick look at the common brackets of MERV filter ratings and what you can expect from filters placed in these groups:

MERV 1-4: Filters in this range are going to be the cheapest to purchase. They provide a very basic level of filtration for homeowners. 

MERV 6-8: This type of filter is most common for homeowners. It’s typically made of paper or pleated cloth to capture various particles in the air. 

MERV 9-12: These are going to be your mid-range filters that can capture particles that are one micron or higher. 

MERV 13-16: Filters in this range are of the highest quality. They can remove contaminants in your home air that are .3 microns or larger.

Air Filter Maintenance

As you’ve learned above, all the air inside of your home passes through your heating or cooling system air filter. You must have a clean filter that is capable of trapping unwanted contaminants. If you’re not convinced you need to have an air filter change, then some reasons may convince you.

  • Clogged Air Filters Can Lead To HVAC System Malfunctions
  • Dirty Filters Won’t Remove Any More Airborne Contaminants
  • Unwanted Contaminants Will Accumulate In Your HVAC Ductwork
  • Clogged Filters Make Your HVAC System Work Harder

Hopefully, you’re now convinced that regular air filter changes are a necessity for your air conditioner system. You should be changing your air filters when they become dirty. This is easily identified by pulling the filter out of its housing and trying to look through it. New air filters are easy to look through. Dirty air filters are not because all the dust and contaminants are blocking the filter material. 

Most homeowners should check their air filters once a month. If the visual inspection shows that the filter is dirty, then it should be replaced. If you can still see through the filter, reinstall it into your air conditioner. Most people will find that they’ll need to replace their air filters every three months. If you are near Memphis, you may check air conditioning in Memphis website.

Factors That Can Impact The Frequency Of Filter Changes

Everyone’s home is a bit different from the next. Understanding the vulnerabilities in your home that can add to the clogging of your HVAC system filter is a necessity, so you know how often to change it. Here are some of the most common factors that will shorten the time between air filter changes in your air conditioning system.

  • Having Pets
  • Doing Renovations
  • Having People Over Often
  • Smoking
  • Allergies
  • Frequently Open Doors And Windows

If your home fits into more than one category above, you’re likely going to need to replace your HVAC air filter more frequently than every three months. A good rule of thumb is to check once a month until your filter gets too dirty and needs to be replaced. This will give you a good time frame to go off of for the following filter change. 

Determining What Air Filter You Need

Before you can replace the air filter in your air conditioner system, you need to determine what size filter you need. There are various ways to determine the exact filter that you need to fit your HVAC system. The easiest is to look at the owner’s manual that came with your HVAC system. It should specify the model of filter that you’ll need. 

If you don’t have an owner’s manual, there are other options for determining the size. Pull out the old filter and try to identify any size markings that are present. If that doesn’t work, then you’ll need to get out your tape measure. Take note of the air filter’s width, length, and depth. Most filters are sold with measurements in the format of L x W x D. If you’re still having trouble, contact a local HVAC professional to help. 

How To Replace Your HVAC Air Filter

Before attempting to replace your air filter, turn off the entire HVAC unit. If you’re having trouble finding the switch on your HVAC system, you can always turn off the electrical panel breaker. Many air filters are conveniently located at the bottom of the air conditioner unit’s right. Most will easily pull out of a slot by hand. In some rare systems, the filter may be located in an air vent. If you’re not sure where your air filter is located, contact a local HVAC professional to assist you.

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