The easiest task to keep your air conditioner running well is to change or clean its filters regularly. Filters that are clogged or dirty reduce the amount of airflow and make a system much less efficient. Cleaning the AC filter is also important to provide good air quality in your house.
Even though it’s simple, many homeowners forget to clean the air filter in their AC unit. There are two different kinds of HVAC filters; washable and disposable. No matter what air filter your air conditioner uses, it needs to be cleaned and/or replaced regularly.
What happens if you don’t clean your air conditioner filter?
A dirty filter can cause several problems with your air conditioner. Your air conditioner’s airflow is controlled by the air filters. Anything that stops the airflow can cause problems or damage to the unit, such as:
- Reduced cooling capacity
- AC overheating
- AC freezing up
- AC short cycling
- Musty odors from mold and mildew
- Strange sounds from the air conditioner
All of these can damage your AC unit even more if you don’t take care of them. Clean your air conditioner filter regularly to keep your reusable filters working well and to keep your AC unit in good shape.
Read on to find out how to clean your AC filter in the right way.
How to clean your air conditioner filter: a step-by-step guide
Remember that this guide only works for air conditioners with washable or reusable filters. If your unit has disposable air filters, you must replace them instead of cleaning them.
Step 1: Shut off the power
First, make sure that your unit is turned OFF. This step should also be done whenever you service your air conditioner in any way. This will not only keep you safe but also prevent any damage from happening to your air conditioner.
Step 2: Find the filter
You need to know where your air filters are to clean them. Depending on your HVAC system type, the filter might be in a different place.
- For Central Air: The filters are behind the vents that bring air back into the room. You can find these on the floor or the ceiling. Larger homes will have more than one return vent, so they will also have more than one air filter.
- Ductless Mini-Split: Each mini-split system has its own set of filters. When you open the front of the system, the filter is right there.
- Window Unit: Like with the mini-split system, the filters are in each window unit.
Step 3: Remove the dust
When you take the filter out of its housing, you will see all the dust stuck to it. The longer you wait to clean your filters, the dirtier and grayer they will look.
Use a handheld vacuum with a brush attachment to remove the dust. A few passes of the vacuum should eliminate all but the biggest particles.
Step 4: Wash the filter
Once you’ve gotten as much dust out of the filter as possible with a vacuum, it’s time to clean it. You can put the filter under a sink faucet or a hose outside. Rinse the filter well until all of the dark spots are gone.
Before putting the air filter back in your HVAC system, give it enough time to dry. If not, it could grow mold in the next few days. Just lean it against a wall or object for a few hours and check on it every few hours until it’s completely dry.
Step 5: Reinstall the filter
Once your filter is completely dry, install it back in the unit and ensure it is in the right place and in the right direction. After that, turn your air conditioner back ON and ensure it’s working right.
As with cleaning any other appliance, check the manufacturer’s instructions to find the right way to clean an AC filter. Some units should be replaced instead of cleaned, so check the product’s manual to find out what to do.
How often should you clean your AC filter?
Usually, you should clean your air conditioner filter between two or four weeks after installing it. If you see dust or something that looks like ash on the side of the air filter that goes into the duct, you should clean it.