Cleaning Your HVAC Filter: Everything You Need to Know

Homeowners should learn how to clean an AC filter. Not only are you ensuring improved air quality in the house, but you’re also reducing costs since you don’t have to replace the filters frequently. In this guide, you’ll learn why you should clean your AC filters, the tools you need, the different types of filters, and the steps to get them cleaned.

Why You Should Perform Air Conditioner Filter Cleaning

Learning how to perform AC filter maintenance can be a useful skill for homeowners who want to reduce costs, ensure a healthy home environment, and boost the performance of their HVAC systems. You improve your home’s air quality by maintaining your filters regularly. Your HVAC can better remove allergens, dust, and other harmful air particles with a clean filter.

Experts and manufacturers recommend that air filters be replaced every three months. This replacement schedule can cost you from $40 to $80 annually for every HVAC unit you run in your home. Without proper filter maintenance, you may perform more frequent replacements, which costs you more money.

Here are some more reasons why you should learn how to clean an AC filter:

1. Improve Your HVAC Performance

When the filters are clogged, the airflow through your HVAC will be restricted. This condition hampers the cooling efficiency of your AC system. When you clean the filters, air can flow freely, allowing the unit to effectively control room temperature.

2. Reduce Power Costs

Regular filter maintenance extends their usable life, so you don’t have to buy replacements frequently. Dirty filters tend to get damaged when they’re left unattended for long periods. They can also cause other issues with your AC unit.

3. Prolong System Lifespan

When HVAC filters function optimally, you reduce the risk of the air conditioning system malfunctioning or breaking down entirely. Neglected air filters tend to become excessively dirty, creating additional stress on your entire HVAC. Its different components will then try to compensate due to the poor air circulating in the home, which can lead to premature wear and tear. With proper maintenance, you can extend the usable life of your HVAC system.

4. Improved Energy Efficiency

Clean air filters contribute to the overall energy efficiency of your air conditioning system, which can help reduce your electricity bills over time. Using energy-efficient appliances doesn’t only save you money, but they also enhance your lifestyle and help protect the environment.

5. Improved Indoor Air Quality

HVAC filters eliminate animal dander, pollen, dust, and other airborne particles. Over time, filters trap many particles, which can get clogged. This reduces their effectiveness and allows pollutants to enter the air inside your home. Regular AC filter maintenance ensures clean air inside the house, reducing incidents of asthma and other similar health conditions.

Types of AC Filters

There are several types of filters depending on the design of your HVAC system. Each variant provides different levels of filtration and efficiency:

  • High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filters: Many consider HEPA filters as the gold standard for improving better indoor air quality. These filters can capture 99% of airborne particles smaller than 0.3 microns. These filters are installed in AC and heating systems where air quality is critical to the indoor environment, such as healthcare centers, clinics, and hospitals. Installing HEPA filters may require modification since they have a higher airflow resistance.
  • Activated Carbon Filters: These filters remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In addition, they can remove odors and harmful chemicals. This type of filter contains carbon granules, so they can capture pollutants and provide comprehensive air purification. They may also be combined with other air filters to further improve the air quality in your home.
  • Electrostatic Filters: Also known as reusable or washable filters, these filters use electric charges to capture air particulates. They are typically installed near furnaces and are also used to replace pleated filters. Some electrostatic filters are washable, but there are disposable ones too. Since these filters can capture smaller particles in the air, they may require more frequent cleaning.
  • Pleated Filters: Pleated filters are constructed using more pliable materials such as paper, cotton, and polyester. The name comes from the fact that they are folded, creating pleats, and look like an accordion. They’re often housed within a cardboard frame. The pleats allow this filter to have more surface area and capture more particles. In addition, they’re an excellent choice for removing smaller particles such as mold spores, pet dander, and pollen. It is important to note that pleated filters come in varying degrees of MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) ratings and filtration levels.
  • Fiberglass Filters: Some HVAC systems are equipped with fiberglass filters, which can be more affordable. These blue-colored filters are often found in large retail stores and hardware centers. They are made using spun glass, which can capture larger particles and have a MERV rating from one to four.

The type of air filter installed in your home will vary depending on the design of your HVAC system. Consider the allergies or other sensitivities of your home’s occupants, along with the level of filtration required inside the house. Some filters can be cleaned, while others are disposable, so check the system’s user manual to confirm. Understanding the type of filter used in your HVAC will help you determine their usable life.

How to Clean an AC Filter

HVAC filter cleaning is a simple task that homeowners can do. Here are the steps you can take to clean your AC filter:

1. Turn Off Your Air Conditioner

Before working on your filters, turn off your AC unit. This step reduces the risk of accidents and prevents any damage to your system.

2. Locate and Remove the Filter

Next, you should locate where the filter is installed. You may have to check the user’s manual to help you find it. It is important to note that some HVAC systems make use of multiple filters, so make sure to check all vents. They are typically placed at the air handler unit or the grilles.

3. Filter Removal

The next step is to remove the filter. This process can vary depending on the filter system’s design. Some just slide out easily, while others need to be unscrewed first from the grille. Make sure to carefully remove the filter during this step.

4. Inspect Your Filter:

Check the filter before attempting to clean it. If there appears to be excessive damage or excessive dirt accumulation, it may be better to just replace the filter instead of cleaning it.

5. Rinse or Vacuum

If the air filter looks good and has no damage, you can start cleaning it, provided it is washable. If the filter can’t be washed, it is best to vacuum it instead. TIP: use a gentle stream of water when rinsing your filter, which prevents any potential damage during cleanup. You can use a mild detergent to remove tough dirt and debris.

6. Air Dry

After thoroughly cleaning, leave the filter in a safe area to air dry.

7. Reinstallation

Finally, when the filter is dry, reinstall it into your HVAC system. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Even though HVAC filter cleaning is an easy task, sometimes homeowners don’t have time to do it themselves. If that’s the case, having it done by professionals during routine AC maintenance is best.

Work with AC and Heating Specialists At Mitchell Heating

Filters need proper maintenance to extend their usable life and reduce your monthly recurring costs. Mitchell Heating has certified technicians with over 25 years of experience. We are the brand to trust when it comes to AC maintenance and repair. Contact us today to request an estimate or service.