Is your air conditioner not cooling as well as it usually does? Is it straining or taking a long time to provide cool air for your house? Don’t panic. A lot of problems with your AC can be fixed with a simple air filter replacement.
Changing the air filter is probably the easiest maintenance you can do for your air conditioner. It doesn’t require any special tools, and it’s a fairly simple task. However, a lot of people with central HVAC systems don’t know where to find their air filters.
It pays to know where to find the air filters in your air conditioning system. Your AC air filter serves an important role not just for your AC but for your home as well, so knowing when and how to replace it is a must.
What does your AC filter do?
Your air conditioner’s air filter has 2 main functions: to protect the air conditioner and to give you better indoor air quality.
The air filter prevents any particles and debris from entering the air conditioner. The internal parts of your air conditioner are sensitive, and damage from small debris can cause the refrigerant to leak out. The dirt inside your air conditioner can also accelerate normal wear and tear, which can lead to costly breakdowns and eventually, a replacement.
The AC filter also cleans the air you breathe. It not only catches dirt and dust, but it also filters out mold spores, fungi, bacteria, pet fur, dander, smoke, pollutants, harmful chemicals, and more. This improves the quality of your indoor air significantly, keeping you and your family healthy.
If you have people with allergies or asthma in your home, the air filter of your air conditioner is crucial to living healthily and free of respiratory irritation.
Signs you need to replace your AC filter
The first sign that your air filter might be getting clogged and dirty is that your air conditioner is no longer cooling effectively. You might notice that it’s not cooling at all or it’s taking a long time to do so.
You may also notice that there’s more dust in the air, which can irritate your nose, throat, and lungs. If you or anyone in your family has allergies, you may notice them starting to flare up due to the irritants in the air.
Dust can also accumulate around the vents inside your home. Once you see dust coming out of the grill or building up next to the vents, it’s time to replace your filter.
An air filter that’s full of dust and particles can cause the inside of your HVAC system to form condensation. This moisture can lead to mold and slime, which produces both a musty smell and a drainage clog. If you notice your air conditioner blowing musty air or dripping water on the inside of your home, you need to change your air filter immediately and go for a cleaning session as well.
A clogged air filter makes your AC work harder than it’s supposed to. It strains to pull in air through the dirty filter, making the whole HVAC system work inefficiently. This issue can lead to higher power bills. Are your bills higher even though you’ve been using the air conditioner for the same amount of time?
You can also find out if it’s time for a filter change based on when you last did it. If your last filter change was 30-90 days ago, you might need to change again. Depending on the condition of your home, you may need to change more often. Do you have pets? Do you have allergies? Are you a smoker? These are just some of the factors that can tell you when you need to change your filter.
The easiest way to find out if your AC is due for a filter replacement is to check the filters manually. This is why it’s important to know where the filters are located even if it’s not yet time to change them. You can check the filter regularly and change them before they get too dirty and damage your AC.
Where can I find my AC filter?
In a central air conditioning system, the filter may usually be found in 2 places. However, if you have a bigger home, there’s a possibility that you may have more than one filter. It’s best to check all possible locations to see where your filter/s are:
Your filter may be located in your return vents. These can be found on the ceiling, on a wall, or in older homes, on the floor. Return vents pull air from your home to your AC. The easiest way to determine a return vent is to place a thin piece of paper or tissue in front of it. If the paper is pulled towards the grill, that’s a return vent.
Opening the vents can be done in different ways depending on what kind of AC model you have. Usually, for return vents located on the wall, you simply need to move the clips and open the grill. You will see the filter right away.
For ceiling return vents, the procedure is pretty much the same, but once you open the clips, the grill will hinge downwards, and you’ll see the filter immediately as well.
Near the Air Handler
Your air filter may be located in your air handler unit, which is usually in your attic, basement, or utility closet.
The air handler is a large metal box that contains your system’s blower motor, evaporator coil, electrical components, and air filter.
Check your air handler and look for a small slot around 1-2 inches in size. This slot can be on either side of the air handler or either above or below it. Some compartments are labeled to help you out.
Open the slot. Usually, it has a hinged cover. Sometimes, you need to unscrew the cover to open it. Once it’s open, pull out the existing dirty filter and replace it with a new one.
Things to remember when changing your filter
Once you’ve located where your AC air filter is, you can now replace it. Before you do that, you should remember some things so that you don’t damage your AC. Keep these in mind before you carry on with the filter replacement:
Select the Right Filter
When replacing your air filter, the replacement must be compatible with your system. You can check the side of the dirty filter to see its size. If you want to be very sure, you can also check with your air conditioner’s manufacturer or consult a professional HVAC technician as to which air filter is recommended for your system.
An HVAC technician can also tell you what the right filter MERV rating is for your air conditioner. The MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating is the filter’s capability to remove smaller particles and contaminants from the air. A higher MERV rating means better filtration.
However, don’t exceed the recommended MERV rating for your AC system, as the smaller filter pores can restrict air flow and make your air conditioner struggle with efficiency.
Correct Filter Placement
Make sure to correctly install your new air filter. There will be arrows in your air filter that will indicate the direction of the airflow. When you install the replacement, make sure that the arrow points toward your AC unit.
When taking out your dirty air filter, handle it carefully and dispose of it immediately. The dust and other particles in the filter can irritate your lungs and circulate in your house again if left unchecked.
Clean Surrounding Area
As you are replacing your filter, make sure to clean and vacuum around the area as well. When you take out your dirty filter from its compartment, some particles may dislodge and spread dirt around the area. These particles will just end up being recirculated and absorbed by your air conditioner.
Schedule the Next Replacement
Take your calendar and mark the next date of replacement. Depending on your home’s conditions, you can change your filter anywhere between 30 to 90 days.
You can also schedule interim checks for yourself to see how your air filter is doing and to get an estimate as to when you need to replace it.
TIP: When you install a replacement, write the current date on the cardboard part of the filter. This way, whenever you check it, you’ll know how long it was since it was last replaced.
CPI Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling Services
Need help with filter replacement and general AC maintenance? Don’t hesitate to call experienced professionals to help you out!
CPI Plumbing and HVAC is a highly trusted contractor in Skagit County and surrounding areas in WA. We are committed to giving you the best service and honest advice that you can trust.
Our expert HVAC team can not only do maintenance, but also repairs and installations for both residential and commercial clients.
Call us now at (360) 822-9306.
Our team is always ready to help you with all your plumbing and HVAC needs.