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How to Clean & Change Your Air Conditioner Filter

How to Clean or Change Your Air Conditioner Filter

Ready for summer? We certainly are. Your AC unit is essential for keeping your home comfortable in the hot summer months, but in order for that to happen, you need a clean air conditioner filter.

AC filters work by trapping dirt, pollen, pet dander, and dust so that the air in your room remains clean and safe to breathe. Over time, these particles start to build up in the filter, causing it not to work as well and potentially allow harmful particulates and allergens into your air.

Particle buildup can also greatly affect the performance of your AC unit; a particularly dirty AC filter will fail to filter out contaminants and cause damage to your AC. Routine cleaning is therefore extremely important to ensure the efficiency and long life of your AC unit. We’ll talk about how often you need to clean your air conditioner filter and how to clean it, as well as how to tell if your AC filter needs to be replaced and how to replace your air conditioner filter.

Image of dirty air conditioner filter and how to clean it. You can clean your AC filters by rinsing in the sink, or by using a vacuum.
Infographic by THS Heating & Cooling Expert Mickey Luongo

Cleaning Your AC Filter: The Basics

Your AC filters should be cleaned or replaced at least once a month or more, depending on how often you use your unit. But how do you know if your AC filter needs to be washed or replaced?

There are two different types of AC filters: washable and disposable. Washable AC filters can be easily cleaned and reused as needed, while disposable AC filters offer a shorter life cycle. The upside of disposable AC filters is their inexpensiveness; however, they’re less effective at keeping your air clean. While washable AC filters are more effective at cleaning your air, they require more maintenance than disposable AC filters. Check your owner’s manual to see if your AC uses washable or disposable filters — that way, you’ll have a better idea of what to do when your filter gets dirty.

How to Clean Your Air Conditioner Filter

You can either clean your AC filters by rinsing them in the sink and leaving them to dry on a towel, or by using a vacuum to remove dirt and dust build-up. The entire cleaning process takes hardly any time at all, and your filters easily snap back into place as soon as you’re done!

How to Clean Your AC Filter with a Vacuum

  1. Remove the air filter.
  2. Use your vacuum’s hose or crevice tool to vacuum debris from the filter.
  3. Once most of the debris is removed, rinse the filter in running water (hot or cold).
  4. Air dry the filter.
  5. Repeat if necessary.

How to Clean Your AC Filter in Your Sink

  1. Remove the air filter.
  2. Soak the air filter in warm, soapy water. If your filter is particularly dirty, you can try a solution of water and vinegar.
  3. Air dry the filter.
  4. Repeat if necessary.

The lifespan of your AC filters will depend on the manufacturer and how often you use your AC unit. Manufacturers typically list product lifespan on the packaging, however, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends checking your AC filters every month or two during the summer season for excessive dirt buildup. If you have family members who are prone to allergies, or if you have any pets in the house, you may find that your AC filters need to be cleaned or replaced more frequently.

Image of window AC unit. Replacing your air conditioner filter is easier than you think.

Changing Your AC Filter: When & How

Whether you have a disposable air conditioner filter or a washable AC filter, at some point all air conditioner filters need to be replaced. But replacing your AC filter doesn’t have to be a difficult task — we’ll walk you through how to tell if your AC filter needs to be replaced and how to replace it.

As we’ve mentioned, the lifespan of your AC filter depends on a number of factors, including the quality of the filter, how often you use your AC unit, and whether or not your home is especially susceptible to contaminants such as pet dander or dust. Manufacturers also typically list their suggested timeframe for replacement on the air filter’s packaging. But how can you be sure if your AC filter needs replacing?

In a nutshell: if it’s really dirty, replace it. If you have a washable AC filter and washing just isn’t doing the trick anymore, it’s time for a new AC filter. If you have a disposable AC filter and it’s looking exceptionally filthy, you need a replacement.

In addition, if you notice any rips, tears, or holes in your AC filter, you should replace it with a new one. Worn AC filters do nothing to improve your air quality and can affect the overall performance of your AC system.

How to Replace Your Air Conditioner Filter

The steps for replacing your air conditioner filter will depend on the type of AC unit you have in your home.

If you have a central air conditioning:

  1. Shut off your AC system.
  2. Locate the air filter.
  3. Check the dimensions on the air filter – this will tell you what size replacement AC filter you need.
  4. Remove the old filter.
  5. Replace with a new filter. The filter should snap right in place.

If you have a mini split AC unit:

  1. Shut off your AC unit.
  2. Open the indoor AC unit’s front housing.
  3. Remove the old filter.
  4. Make sure your new filter is the correct size.
  5. Install new filter. The filter should snap right in place.

If you have a window AC unit:

  1. Shut off your AC unit.
  2. Remove the front housing.
  3. Remove the old filter.
  4. Make sure your new filter is the correct size.
  5. Install new filter. The filter should snap right in place.

AC Filters & Air Quality

As we’ve discussed, a high-quality and clean AC filter will do wonders to improve the air quality in your home and ensure your AC unit stays in good working condition for years. When paired with a quality air purifier, a clean AC filter will help put you on the path to a happier and healthier home. An added bonus? Regularly cleaning and replacing your AC filter can help you save money and energy — in fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that regular maintenance can reduce your energy consumption by about 5 to 15 percent.

In the market for a new AC? Check out our top AC picks!

Kristen Turner

Featured blogger for Total Home Supply.

6 thoughts on “How to Clean & Change Your Air Conditioner Filter”

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