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How to Change Your AC's Filters

Do you know how to change your air conditioner's filter?

split-ac-filter-350A clean filter will improve your AC unit's performance, save energy (and money!) and avoid (literal) household meltdowns if the AC cuts off.

Different AC models may have different cleaning and maintenance requirements. In any case, a clean air conditioner will work more efficiently, saving you money on your energy bill.

It's a good idea to be familiar with the maintenance guide for your particular model. If there is any confusion over how to best maintain air conditioner performance, don't be afraid to contact the manufacturer of your unit. Most companies are happy to respond to customer inquiries by email or phone.

There are four popular commercial models on the market today. Allow us to introduce....

  1. Portable Air Conditioners

    One of the most popular AC options.

    • Affordable, portable and reliable, these units are well-suited to smaller rooms, offices and areas that receive a lot of strong sunlight.
    • Often a dehumidifier is built into the unit as well, and many are programmable.
    • They still require some form of outdoor venting (usually with hoses) but they are mobile and do not require any special installation work.
    • Portable AC maintenance is relatively hassle-free. But you will need to know how to clean portable AC filters and recognize when it comes time to replace them. More on this to come!

  2. Window Air Conditioners

    These units are sometimes referred to as horizontal units.

    They are effective for heating a small to medium size room and window installation is relatively simple.

    Better yet, they can be just as easily removed when the summer heat cools off, and temperate fall is waiting in the wings. Window AC units are also one of the most cost-effective solutions you'll find on the market for small-space cooling.

    We'll cover what you need to know about window AC maintenance. Clean window AC filters will keep you cool and extend the life of your window AC unit.

  3. Split Air Conditioners

    As implied by their name, "split systems" are made up of two separate units; one indoor to provide cool air; and one outside to vent the unwanted warm air.

    • The two units are connected by a series of pipes, hoses or tubes.
    • These units may not come cheap, but some systems can also be used as heaters in the winter.
    • They can be mounted pretty much anywhere, are small in size, but provide powerful cooling in any climate.

    Air purification and dehumidifier options are available on many models.

    One advantage is that major duct work is not required when installing a split air conditioning system. Ensuring that you have clean split AC filters plays an essential role in split AC maintenance. We'll guide you through how to change your unit's filters step by step in the pages that follow.

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  4. Central Air Conditioners

    These systems make use of some of the most advanced and sophisticated cooling technology on the market.

    They take advantage of the existing duct work in a home, and via a cooling coil or unit that is installed alongside your furnace, ensure that your family is kept comfortably cool in the summer.

    • It's making use of the same system that keeps you warm in winter, but adapted to bring the indoor temperature down in summer.
    • You need to properly maintain air conditioner components, and this includes regular checks of the filters, coils and other parts of your system.

    Central AC units are designed to cool large areas. An entire house or office can be easily temperature-controlled.

    These systems are usually programmable, so each room or "zone" may be maintained at a desired temperature. But they don't come cheap! However a little attention will go a long way in extending their lifespan.

    • Regularly scheduled central AC maintenance includes the installation of clean central AC filters.
    • Failing to keep a clean filter in your central AC unit could result in a breakdown, and costly repairs.
    • Central AC maintenance you can do by yourself. If you have a system shut-down, call your HVAC company to make any necessary repairs.

clean-ac-filter-300Just as with your car, regular maintenance will make your life easier, and save you money in the long term.

It's not just that you are extending the life of your AC unit, and improving its efficiency. There could be safety issues involved if you don't know how to properly clean an air conditioner.

A clean air conditioner, and one that has been taken care of according to the maintenance guide provided by the manufacturer, will keep your home and family comfortable and cool for years to come. Here are some tips that will keep your unit in top form.

  1. Portable AC Maintenance

    Checking for clean portable AC filters should be done every month.

    • Follow the recommendations included in the AC's maintenance guide.
    • Some filters require a simple wash, with a mild detergent, and then time to dry out.
    • Other models (especially those with carbon filters) may need regular filter replacement.
    • How frequently you need to replace your filter also depends on how often you use it, and the amount of debris in the air.
    • All models need a clean filter in order to operate as they were intended.

    Part of proper portable AC maintenance will involve making sure that the outside (and inside) parts of the unit do not get plugged up with dust, debris, and pet or human hair.

    Water drainage hoses should be checked on a regular basis to make sure no leaks or kinks have formed.

    If your unit has any water collection pans that collect condensed water, make sure they are clean and emptied as necessary. Ditto for any ventilation hoses that allow hot air to be vented from a room. They must never be allowed to become blocked.

  2. Window AC Maintenance

    Checking for a clean filter is one of the most important parts of performing your regular window AC maintenance checks.

    • Most filters can be washed. If this is the case, remove the filters from the units and give them a good cleaning with warm water and a mild detergent.
    • Check for signs of mold, and allow the clean filter to completely dry before reassembling the unit.
    • Check the condenser and evaporator coils for dirt and debris at least once a season.
    • Use a vacuum with a brush attachment to suck out any stubborn dust.
    • It is advisable to remove the unit from it's casing on an annual basis, and give the whole thing a going over and a good wash.
    • Allow it to dry before reassembling and reinstalling it.
    • Always keep an eye on the coil fins to make sure they are not bent.

  3. Split AC Maintenance

    A split AC unit has indoor and outdoor components, and both of these will require your attention.

    Of course clean split AC filters are critical.

    • Following the instructions in your unit's maintenance guide, remove the front panel of the AC and clean out any dust and debris which may be clogging up the filters.
    • If they need a wash, a mild or natural detergent and warm water will do the trick.
    • If they have outlived their usefulness, you will need to buy and install new, clean filters. Check your maintenance guide so that you purchase the ones best suited for your unit.

    The coils of most split AC indoor units can be cleaned using a spray coil cleaner.

    • Make sure to put plastic sheets down, or secure a plastic bag below the unit to catch the spray and rinse water that will leak out.
    • Then spray the coil cleanser in the front of the unit, wait 15 to 20 minutes, and spray with warm water to rinse.
    • Make sure the unit has dried before turning it on again.

  4. Central AC Maintenance

    clean-central-ac-filter-300Clean central AC filters are an especially important task in central AC maintenance.

    Should a filter become badly clogged it may shut down the entire system. While central AC maintenance is something a homeowner can easily handle, restoring a shut down system is something best left to a service contractor.

    • The type of filters your unit requires may vary depending on the model. Be certain that you have the appropriate filter by checking the manufacturer's maintenance guide.
    • Also some filters need to be installed with one side facing up or down. Look for the arrows printed on many filters that will help you figure out which way is up!

    As with other AC units, use your system maintenance guide to determine how to properly clean an air conditioner that is hooked up to your furnace and duct work.

    Inspect the condenser, coils and your furnace's blower unit. If you live in a humid climate, check to make sure the condensate drain does not get blocked, and stays clean.

Regardless of the make or model of the unit you own, to maintain air conditioner performance, you will eventually need to change your AC filters, Don't worry.

Clean filter installation is an easy DIY project that we'll make quick and painless. Here's how.

Portable AC Filter Change

  1. Make sure the unit is unplugged and turned off.
  2. Make sure you have the correct filters! Check your maintenance guide.
  3. You will need to remove the front panel or grill to get at the old filters.
  4. Carefully pull the old filter from the frame and install the new clean filter.
  5. Replace the front grill.

Window AC Filter Change

  1. Once unplugged, pry the unit's front grill off.
  2. Remove the old filter and replace with a new filter that meets the specifications laid out in the product maintenance guide. Using the wrong filter will affect the efficiency of the unit and may shut it down all together.
  3. Replace the front panel, plug the unit in and you're good to go!

Split System AC Filter Change

  1. The indoor component of most split AC units have a flip up front cover. Open the cover so you have access to the filter. Make sure the unit is turned off.
  2. Remove the old filter.
  3. Replace with a new filter that matches the manufacturer's specs as listed in the maintenance guide.
  4. It is recommended with most split AC units that the filters be inspected every month and cleaned at least every three months. The filters will need to replaced at least once a year.

Central AC Filter Change

  1. Determine what kind of filters you need for your particular AC system (consult the manufacturer's maintenance guide) The most common are either a "media" style box filter, or a thinner, slide in panel style filter. With a media filter system, a clean filter, ideally a new one, should be put in place every six months.

    If there are pets or an excessive amount of dirt and debris in the house, more frequent replacements may be necessary. A slide in panel filter can usually be washed to extend it's lifespan and save you some cash.

    dirty-ac-filter-300Eventually of course, it too will need replacement. Monthly checks are advised.

  2. Slide in washable filters are located closer to the bottom of the unit, media box filters are often mounted slightly higher up.
  3. In either case you'll need to first remove the cover.
  4. Pull out the used filter and replace with a new filter that meets the specifications in your maintenance guide.
  5. Slide the new, clean filter back into place and replace the cover. You're good to go!

Knowing how to properly clean an air conditioner, regardless of the make or model that you own, will extend the life of your unit.

It will function far more effectively if you take care to keep a clean filter installed at all times.

Recognizing when these filters need to be changed, and following the instructions in the manufacturer's maintenance guide, will save you time and money in the long run, and keep you cool until fall blows in through the door!

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