How To Change An Air Conditioning AC Filter

Changing the air conditioner filter is a necessary and simple maintenance task that every homeowner should perform as needed. If you’re searching for tips on how to change an air conditioning ac filter, then this article will be of help to you.

The filter in your air conditioning unit helps clean the air in your home and prevent dust and debris from collecting inside the appliance. These filters eventually require cleaning or replacement, depending on the type of AC system you have.

Most manufacturers recommend that you change the filter every three months. However, many homeowners overlook this recommendation. If you want to maintain your AC system and the air quality in your home, you should learn how to change your air conditioning filter.

How To Change An Air Conditioning AC Filter

Determine Where the Filter Is Located

You cannot change the filter without finding it. The location of the filter depends on the type of AC unit. For example, a basic window unit typically has a filter inside the front panel while a central air conditioning system may have a filter in the return vent.

Locating Window-Mounted AC Filters

If you have a window air conditioner, changing the filter is often an incredibly easy process. A plastic panel with vents is often located below the air discharge vent. This panel may pull out, providing access to the removable filter.

Most window AC systems include reusable filters. These filters simply need to be washed clean in the sink and allowed to dry before getting placed back in the air conditioner. Always allow the filter to dry completely to prevent excess moisture from getting inside the air conditioner.

When removing the air filter, you may want to turn off the air conditioner. Without the filter, there is nothing to stop dirt and debris from reaching the inside of the appliance.

Locating Central Air Conditioner Filters

To find the filter for your central AC system, look for the return vent, which is often placed in the same room as the thermostat.

If you have trouble distinguishing the return vent from the supply vents, the supply vents blow cool or warm air into the room. The supply vents are also typically smaller than the return vents and may feature louvers for adjusting the airflow.

The return vents are often located on the wall near the floor. However, some vents are installed in the ceilings or upper areas of the wall. Some central AC system house the filter in the unit near the blower fan. You may need to look around your house to locate the filter.

Replacing Central AC Vent Filters

If the filter is inside the return vent, turn off the air conditioner and remove the grill covering the return vent. Some vent covers are secured with screws while others feature fasteners that allow you to simply unfasten the cover and pull it out toward you.

Carefully remove the dirty filter, using caution to avoid shaking debris or dust loose. Depending on how long the filter has been in use, it may have accumulated a lot of debris. To keep this debris from falling back into air ducts or onto your floor, bring a trash can or bag over to the vent so you can immediately dispose of the old filter.

Insert the new filter into the vent. AC filters typically feature arrows to let you know which direction to place the filter. The arrows should face in toward the air ducts instead of facing out toward you.

After inserting the new filter, replace the vent cover. If the vent is covered in dirt or debris, wipe it clean before screwing or fastening back into position. You can now turn the air conditioner back on and continue enjoying fresher, cleaner air.

Replacing Filters Located Inside the AC Unit

Instead of placing the filter in the return vent, the filter may be located inside the unit. This is more common for indoor units.

The front of your indoor air conditioner should feature one or more panels, similar to the window air conditioners. Remove this panel and locate the filter, which is often found near the bottom.

As you pull the dirty filter from the air conditioner, pay attention to the direction of the airflow arrows. When replacing the filter, you want the new filter to point in the right direction. Insert the new filter and replace the panel.

Purchasing a Replacement Filter

Before getting rid of the old filter, you should purchase a replacement filter. Determining the location of the filter in your house allows you to check the size to ensure that you get the right filter.

Along with the size of the air filter, you need to consider the type of filter. There are several different options, each with its own pros and cons. The main types of AC air filters include:

  • Fiberglass filters
  • Pleated filters
  • HEPA filters
  • Reusable air filters

Fiberglass filters are the cheapest and least-effective option. These filters contain a fiberglass mesh screen that is designed to capture large particles and debris from the air. While they may catch dust and lint, they are not likely to remove harmful contaminants and smaller particles.

Pleated filters typically use synthetic materials arranged over a wire backing to remove smaller particles. They are more effective than the fiberglass filters and may last longer without needing replacement. The synthetic materials may help eliminate pet dander, dust mites, pollen, and even bacteria from the air.

HEPA filters offer the most effective air filtration for your AC system. Using a combination of fiberglass fibers, plastics, and other materials, a HEPA filter can remove over 99% of all airborne particles. However, they also cost more than the other options.

Reusable filters are intended to provide a more environmentally friendly option. While reusable air filters are commonly used in window units, you can find reusable filters for use in central air conditioning systems. You can even find reusable HEPA filters.

Which filter should you use? The main considerations are cost and effectiveness. The more you spend on the filter, the more particles it should be able to remove from the air. However, there is one additional detail to consider — the MERV rating of the filter.

What Is the MERV Rating?

Most air conditioner and furnace filters feature a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating to indicate its efficiency for removing particles from the air. The MERV values range from 1 to 16. A higher rating means that the filter can remove a large percentage of particles.

A MERV rating of four or less means that the filter only removes up to 20% of particles measuring three to ten microns. However, they cannot remove smaller particles. These filters are mostly used for removing pollen, dust, and carpet fibers. Along with these larger particles, an air filter with a MERV rating of 5 to 8 should be able to remove mold spores.

Air filters with MERV ratings between 9 and 12 can remove lead dust, humidifier dust, and even auto emissions. They can trap smaller particles and remove 85% or more of the larger particles.

The most effective filters feature a MERV rating between 13 and 16. These filters may remove 90% or more of small and large particles, including bacteria and tobacco smoke.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends a MERV rating of 13 or higher. However, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioner Engineers (ASHRAE) suggests a rating of 6 or higher.

How Often Should You Replace Your Filter?

Most filters should be replaced every three months. This applies to filters inside the central AC system and window units. However, there are factors that can require you to change the filter out more often.

If you live in an area with a lot of dust, dirt, pollen, and other pollutants, you may want to change the filter every one or two months. Smokers may also want to check their filters frequently and replace them if they appear to be clogged with tobacco resin or buildup.

Last Thoughts on Replacing Your Air Filter

Replacing the air filter in your air conditioner unit is one of the only maintenance tasks that you need to perform on your own. Repairing and servicing the unit is best left to the professionals. However, you may be able to delay the need for repairs by completing this one simple task.

When you allow the filter to get dirty and clogged, you limit airflow, which can cause additional wear on the air conditioner unit. It may also increase the presence of harmful particles in the air. Instead of removing these particles, the clogged filter allows them to recirculate through your house.

Replacing the filter is often quick and easy. You may need to remove a vent grill or a panel on your air conditioner to reach the filter. However, once open, you simply take the old filter out and put in the new one.

If you want to keep your AC system working and maintain cleaner air, remember to replace your filter at least every three months. To help you remember, you can use a marker to write the date on the edge of the filter before inserting into the vent or air conditioner unit.