Your AC Filter Matters — and Here’s Why
When you think of the critical components that make up your air conditioning system, heat pump, or furnace, you probably envision the compressor, condenser, evaporator, and other major parts. However, you shouldn’t neglect a much less impressive yet equally important piece of the puzzle: the air filter. HVAC air filters contribute to your system’s energy efficiency, help to prevent breakdowns, and can even safeguard your health and the health of your loved ones. Let’s examine this unsung hero of the HVAC system to see exactly why and how it makes such an enormous difference.
The Role of the AC Filter
You can think of your AC filter as the “gatekeeper” between your living space and your air conditioning or heating system. This ordinary-looking rectangular frame filled with cloth, paper, or spun fiberglass sits just inside the vent grille that leads to your ductwork. Air that has already gone through the system’s healing and cooling processes proceeds down the duct and through the permeable material of the filter on its way into your room.
The AC filter’s job is to catch any tiny particles of unwanted airborne substances in its fibers. This filtering action effectively cleanses the incoming air to make it safer and more pleasant to breathe. It also helps to keep your floors and other surfaces free of dirt and dust.
When (and How) Good AC Filters Go Bad
Since the particles trapped by AC filters remain embedded in the filter material, these filters get dirtier and dirtier over a period of weeks or months. The more debris the filter collects, the less efficiently it can push air from the HVAC duct into the living space. Any air that does make it through may still contain particles that the dirty filter can’t catch or hold onto.
An AC filter must fit into its enclosure precisely to do its job. A poorly-fitted air filter may leave areas of the duct opening unguarded, allowing dirty air to pass directly into your home.
AC Filter Problems Can Promote Health Problems
A dirty or otherwise malfunctioning AC filter doesn’t just leave you with dusty floors and furniture — it can also pose a threat to your health and wellness. Household air naturally collects a variety of allergens, including pollen, pet dander, mold spores, bacteria, metallic particles, lint fibers, and cigarette ash. Without an efficient means of filtering out these contaminants, you could experience chronic allergy symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, runny nose, watery or itchy eyes, sneezing, and headaches. You may also run a greater risk of respiratory infections or asthma.
AC Filter Problems Affect HVAC Performance
If your AC filter can’t function properly, neither can the rest of your HVAC system, or at least not very long. The dust and debris that doesn’t get trapped by the filter may float back into other components of the system. This can contribute to mechanical breakdowns or loss of mechanical efficiency over time.
If your HVAC doesn’t quit altogether, you may end up paying higher utility bills than you should to achieve the desired temperature in your home. A clogged air filter will obstruct the flow ofc cooled or heated air, forcing you to run the system harder than normal to enjoy a comfortable home.
How to Help Your AC Filter (and Your HVAC System) Do Its Job
Fortunately, a malfunctioning AC filter is the simplest and most cost-effective HVAC problem to correct. Get into the habit of changing your air filter periodically. How often you change an AC filter will depend on what kind of filter you have. A run-of-the-mill cardboard-framed AC air filter can usually go 30 days before it needs replacing, while some high-end filters may continue to function for up to six months before they get too clogged to continue. Ask your AC service technician for advice on changing your particular type of filter.
Measure the dimensions of the space that accommodates your air filter. You want to purchase a size that will sit flush within the space, with no gaps to permit unfiltered air passage.
If you have known allergy, asthma, or other respiratory problems, you may want to purchase a HEPA air filter instead of a standard AC filter. HEPA stands for “High Efficiency Particulate Air.” These specialized filters are rated to remove up to 99.7 percent of airborne contaminants over 0.3 microns in size.
Last but not least, don’t forget to schedule periodic AC system inspections. If your air filter is contributing to a problem, you want to spot and fix that problem sooner rather than later.
Whether you need to fix a problem produced by a neglected air filter or you just need advice on the right kind of air filter for your system’s needs, we can help. Contact us today so we can discuss your situation and schedule a time to look at your HVAC system.