The importance of a functioning air conditioning system in any home cannot be overemphasized. Proper functioning of AC units depends on a number of factors, among them the state of filters. Filters keep away dust, allergens and pathogens in air sucked in from outside, ensuring that only high quality air passes through the AC components and into your home.
Cleaning and replacing filters is an important maintenance task, and it determines how efficiently your AC unit runs. Dirty filters restrict airflow into the house, in turn causing the AC unit to do more to get temperatures where they should be. This can cause the unit to break down a lot sooner than it would have otherwise. In addition, this consumes more energy, thereby hiking your electricity bills.
These are some of the important practices relating to filter care and maintenance.
Cleaning the filters
During periods of extreme use, such as in summer and winter, filters accumulate dirt a lot faster and hence must be cleaned more often. Cleaning twice monthly during these times is advised. Begin by turning off the AC unit and taking out the filters using a screwdriver if needed (your manual describes how to get to the filters). Inspect for obvious wear (e.g. tears in the mesh) – if there is obvious wear, replace the filters instead.
Use a vacuum to suck out obvious dirt and grime – a soft brush may be used, but be extremely careful so that no tears result. Fill a basin/bowl with vinegar and water in equal parts and submerge the filters therein. Vinegar will kill pathogens/allergens. You can soak for about an hour before lightly rubbing with microfiber cloth. Drain (do not rinse) and place on a clean towel to air-dry before replacing in the AC.
Replacing the filter
If you notice any wear in the filters, replacement is the most recommended option. Depending on the type and quality of your filters, you may need to replace every 3-9 months – more often in the summer and winter. Check your manual for the recommended period between replacements.
For higher air quality, you should invest in high-quality filters each time you need to replace them. The following are the most common filter options:
- Disposable fibreglass filters – are only effective against large dust particles and debris. Mould, pollen and smaller dust particles can pass through
- Electrostatic filters – create static charge to attract dirt, dust and other particles. They are ineffective against smaller pollen and mould particles
- Pleated 'allergy' filters – have denser mesh which traps most pollen and mould particles
- Electronic air cleaners – use ionized electrical fields to magnetise and eliminate over 90 percent of very small particles, including some airborne viruses and mould spores
- HEPA furnace filters – are the most effective, commonly used in hospitals and electronics industries where dirt-free air is a requirement
Consult your manual to find out the right brands recommended for your AC system. Do not try to save money by buying cheap filters; you will lose out in air quality, your unit will degrade and your energy consumption will increase. To replace the filter, simply remove the old filter according to the instructions in your manual and install the new filter in the same way.