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How To Clean Your Air Conditioner Filter

person cleaning dirty air conditioner filter

According to the EPA, cleaning your air conditioner filter is a great way to ensure your unit works optimally and saves on electricity. Cleaning your air con filter also reduces dust and other airborne contaminants in your home, reducing the risk of airborne ailments like asthma.

How often should you clean your air conditioner filter?

soiled square shape air conditioner filter

While there are differences in filters i.e., some must be replaced, and others are reusable, you should replace or clean your aircon filter once or twice a month according to the U.S. Department of Energy guidelines. This recommendation applies during the cooling season. More frequent cleaning may be necessary for air conditioning units that are constantly used.

Other factors that may demand more frequent cleaning include air conditioners working in dusty conditions. If your home has fur-bearing pets, you may also need to clean the filter more than once or twice a month.

Even with the Department of Energy's recommendation, it's advisable to check the maintenance checklist of your air conditioner to see if there are specific cleaning and maintenance guidelines applicable to your system.

Importance of cleaning your air conditioner filter?

a very dirty retangular front mounted air conditioner filter

There are four major reasons for cleaning your air-con filter. As mentioned above, cleaning ensures optimal performance. Clogged filters are a proven cause of air conditioner problems. Dirt and debris stuck in filters limit airflow making the fans work harder and malfunction with time. Clogged dirt can also increase the level of contaminants circulating in your home.

In a nutshell, cleaning your air-con filter will make your unit more durable, energy-efficient and boost air quality in your home.

How to clean your air conditioner filter

person cleaning air conditioner filter with a disinfectant spray

Since there are countless air conditioner brands and models out there today, it's advisable to begin by checking the manufacturer's guidelines in case there are unique cleaning needs. However, most air con filters can be cleaned the same way. Here's a step-by-step guide on cleaning your filter

Step by step guide: Cleaning your aircon filter

STEP 1. Collect the necessary tools and cleaning materials

You'll need a vacuum cleaner, screwdriver, cleaning rag, dust mask, and gloves to get started.

STEP 2. Turn off the air conditioner and remove the filter

Wear your gloves and a dust mask before turning off your unit to ensure unfiltered air doesn't circulate around your home. Turning off the unit also prevents hazards like an electric shock. Using a screwdriver, open the AC unit and remove your filter. Most AC manufacturers install filters in easy-to-reach areas, so removing the filter should be easy.

STEP 3: Vacuum the filter

If your filter is dirty, there will be visible dirt/dust build-up. Even if there is none, beware of fine dust that isn't obviously visible unless you touch or shake the filter. While holding the filter firmly, use your vacuum cleaner to suck all the dust and dirt debris out. A regular vacuum cleaner should get the job done.

However, it's important to use a HEPA vacuum. HEPA (High-efficient Particulate Air) units are the best standard since they don't release contaminants back into circulation. Research has shown that regular vacuum cleaners usually fail to capture the smallest air pollutants and release back fine dust and other airborne contaminants back into circulation. You should use HEPA vacuum cleaners in this regard.

You can be able to remove 99.9% of all air contaminants (as small as 0.3 microns) with a HEPA vacuum cleaner. This means you can remove bacteria, mould, and fine dust with ease.

Important: You can wash some aircon filters. However, as mentioned above, check your user manual to confirm if you can wash. Some filters are also meant to be replaced as opposed to being cleaned so, check your user manual first.

Step 4: Reinstall your filter

If washable, follow the directions of the manufacturer. Generally, you will be required to wash the filter with a disinfectant and let it dry before reinstalling. In many cases, cleaning your filter with a HEPA vacuum cleaner should get the job done.

Important: Your air conditioner filter may become worn out over time due to regular vacuuming. In such a case, it should be replaced. Manufacturers generally give timelines or directions that warrant a replacement i.e., when there are visible signs of damage.

In summary, cleaning your air conditioner and air conditioner filter should be easy if you follow the above guide. However, don't forget to check your maintenance guide before attempting any complex cleaning processes.

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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