If you look at any list of tips and tricks for taking care of your air conditioner, one that will appear every time without fail is the same: changing your air filter regularly. Annual maintenance is essential, and so too is knowing how to set your thermostat for energy efficiency. When it comes to the things you can do to prolong the life of your equipment and create a more comfortable home environment, though, keeping the filter clean through regular changes is one of the simplest and most effective. What if you don’t know how to change the air filter for your unit, though?
Don’t worry — for almost every kind of home air conditioning unit, filter changes are easy to figure out and take practically no time at all. Why do HVAC contractors and others so frequently insist on this process?
Why Change Your Air Filter?
At first, it’s easy to think, “Great, something else to spend money on every month,” but most air filters are relatively inexpensive. Even those with acceptable to good MERV ratings aren’t worth more than a few cups of coffee. When you think about the reasons to change them, it’s easy to see why it’s important, too. AC filters:
- Trap dust and other allergens so that fewer irritants circulate in your home when the AC is on
- Help prevent dust from settling into ducts, though periodic duct cleaning may still be ideal
- Protect your HVAC equipment and contribute to maintaining its efficiency
- Improve indoor air quality
Choosing a Filter Replacement
The primary attribute to look for when you consider purchasing new air filters is its MERV rating. This rating is a measurement of how good the filter is at trapping small particles. If you need a cost-effective option and don’t have many allergies, look for a filter with a MERV rating of at least 12 for effective filtration. If you want your filter to trap even the smallest particles, opt for a rating up to MERV 16, which can hold onto particles as small as 0.3 micrometers wide. Some filters also have other special features marked on the packaging.
Finding the Location of Your AC Filter
What if you don’t even know where your filter is? Finding its location is the first part of learning how to change an air filter. Typically, it will be in one of two places. It will either be behind a grate on the return air duct, or in a slot inside of the air handling unit itself. Look for the large return duct that sucks in air when your AC runs. Those with filters are usually easy to access. You may need to undo some simple screws to access the compartment. If you have a mini-split air conditioner, the filter is typically easy to find on the bottom or side of the unit.
How to Change Your Air Filter
Follow these steps for an easy replacement process:
- Find the location of your filter and check the one currently in use. Remember its measurements, often printed on the side.
- Purchase a suitably sized replacement.
- Remove the old filter and insert the new filter with the airflow directional arrow printed on the filter pointing in the correct direction.
- Replace the covering for the filter and turn your air conditioning unit back on.
- Mark down on your calendar when you replaced the filter, so you remember when it is time for the next swap.
How Often Should I Change My Air Filter?
Most often, HVAC technicians will suggest that you change your filter about once every month. Some high-grade consumer filters can continue to work effectively for up to three months. If you have pets, produce large amounts of cooking smoke, or use cigarettes, you will need to change your filter more frequently. Periodically check your filter to assess how dirty it is, and don’t wait if you think it’s time for an early replacement. When in doubt, stick to the one-month rule of thumb. It’s the simplest way to ensure you’re always breathing cleaner air at home.
Don’t Hesitate to Find Professional Help if You Have Concerns
If you find yourself struggling to change the air filter or you cannot locate it at all, consider contacting an HVAC contractor and asking for routine AC maintenance. Not only can they ensure that your equipment is in good condition and ready to continue working hard, but they can show you where to find and replace the filter.
Once you know how to change an air filter, you can ensure you have cleaner air throughout your home while keeping more dust out of your ducts and off your air conditioning equipment. Why not peek and see what your filter looks like right now?