How to Clean Central Air Conditioner Filter (DIYer’s Guide)

Central Air Conditioning systems are an excellent way to provide complete cool comfort to every corner of your home. By taking advantage of the same network of ducts that keeps you and your family warm in winter, a central AC system keeps you cool in summer. Thankfully, it does not take too much effort to maintain central air conditioner. If you know how to clean air conditioner filter, and change worn out filters, you’ve already mastered the essential tasks you’ll need to know.

Clean or replace central air conditioner filter is an easy DIY project if you have the right tools, and more importantly, the right information.

Central AC maintenance is easier than you think, but essential to keep your home cool and comfortable in the heat and humidity of summer. Regular tune ups to make sure all of your HVAC components are running at peak efficiency, should still be carried out by a qualified HVAC professional.

Filters in Your Central AC System

Central air conditioning system circulate air throughout your home. The unit rely on filters to trap tiny particles that blow in from the outside air that comes into indoor rooms. Filter is an important key in home comfort and health indoor air quality.

A clean air conditioner filter cools the air temperature more efficiently and can reduce your energy bills. A dirty air filters quite often involve more energy to run, causing high electricity bills. With no regular cleaning and maintenance, the air filter in your central air conditioning becomes much less effective.

We recommend you change central air conditioner filter every 3 month (depending on the quality of the filter), especially in the summer season the moment that you’re spending more time in your house with the AC unit running.

Why Should Clean Central AC Filter?

  • Cleaner air quality
  • Better unit efficiency, which results in lower energy bills
  • To prolong life-span of your HVAC system

Signs That You Need to Clean Your Central AC Filter

If you haven’t clean your central AC filter in a long time, the following signs are clues that it needs cleaning or maybe replacing.

  • The air quality in your home is durtier than usual.
  • Your filters are visibly dirty, it noticeably gray in color.
  • Your air conditioner is longer to cool your home than it usually does.
  • Your energy bill is higher than usual.

How to Clean Central Air Conditioner Filter

Before performing this DIY central air conditioner filter maintenance, make sure you have the owner’s manual guide that is specific to your model close at hand. The AC owner’s manual can provide you with answers to questions as they arise as to how you can best maintain air conditioner performance and efficiency.

The Tools You’ll Need

You should need nothing more than a screwdriver, vacuums, a garden hoses and a willingness to get a little dirty!

  1. Always make sure you have turned your system off before attempting to inspect or maintain air conditioner system components.
  2. Remove the panel or open the door that lies between you and the filters. This usually does not require a screwdriver, wrench or any other tools. However, never force the panel open. If you have trouble accessing the filters, consult with your maintenance guide or contact the manufacturer directly.
  3. Once you have access to the inside of the unit, remove the dirty filter from the frame that keeps it in place.
  4. If you see any build up or dust or debris, it’s time to clean it with vacuums cleaner. 
  5. Wash the filter in a weak solution of natural or mild detergent and warm water. When all the dirt, hair and debris is gone, give it a good rinse and let it air dry.
  6. Your clean central air conditioner filter is ready to be replaced into your central AC system.
  7. Replace the front grill or panel and secure.
  8. You’re ready to roll, fire up the system and let the cool air in!

How to Change a Dirty Central AC Filter

Before buying a new central ac filter, check your owner’s manual to identify the right size of your filter. The filter size and dimension can also be found on the side of your existing air filter.

When replacing central air conditioner filter, check the measurements and arrows printed on the sides to help you determine which way they should be inserted into your unit. The wrong filter direction may do more harm than no filter at all!

  1. Power off! Shut down the system before performing any central AC maintenance.
  2. Have your new central air conditioner filter ready and make sure the correct size. Filters that are the wrong fit will not work as efficiently.
  3. Open sesame! Carefully remove the front panel to access the filter.
  4. Remove the spent filter and dispose of it.
  5. Insert the new filter. Note any marks on the new filter that indicate the direction the new filter should be facing.
  6. Replace the protective front panel.
  7. Power up, system on and the cool air flows once again.

Central AC Maintenance Tips

  • Always follow the guidelines and suggestions that you will find laid out for your unit in its maintenance guide.
  • Central AC maintenance is certainly a project the average homeowner can manage by themselves. However, if your system stops functioning all together or you have ongoing issues, it’s probably best to call in a professional to see what the underlying problem is.
  • Regularly check your duct system for leaks. Cool air that is leaking out of your duct work means less effective cooling.
  • To maintain air conditioner peak performance, ensure that cool air is being delivered to the areas of your home that need it most. Spots where ducts connect may be particularly vulnerable to leaks.
  • An easy way to check is to hold a lit stick of incense up to the spots where you think you may have leaks. Wait for a second and see which the way the wind blows. If there’s a leak the smoke will show it!
  • Wrap ducts with an insulating foam in areas where they are exposed to direct sunlight or extreme heat. This will prevent cool air from being heated as it passes through hot spots in your home.
  • Never attempt to clean central air conditioner filters (or change them) if the unit is operating. Make sure the unit is off. For added safety, you may want to flip the breaker off for added peace of mind.

Cleaning your central air conditioner filter is not a complicated DIY project. If you know how to properly clean and replace AC filter yourself, you can perform some of the most important tasks necessary to maintain air conditioner efficiency.

About Mas Broto

Have been in the heating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry for over 20 years. He is person that will grow and thrive to learn more about the HVAC industry throughout his career. Mas Broto is also a blogger, who's dedicated to bringing you the best knowledge to get ahead in the game of life.