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There’s an Easy Way to Keep Your Air Conditioner Running Efficiently All Summer

air conditioner Air conditioners, like any other machine, need some basic maintenance to run smoothly and maximize their efficiency. One of the simplest things that you, as the consumer, can do to keep your air conditioner chugging along is change or clean the air filter on a regular basis. But if you’re like many homeowners, it never occurs to you to perform this simple maintenance chore.

The air filter in your air conditioning unit traps dust, pet fur, and other pollutants in the air, so that they don’t travel into your machine and clog up its inner workings. Air filters may simply protect your air conditioner, or they may even improve the air quality inside your home. Some units have reusable air filters that just need to be washed off. Others use disposable filters that need to be entirely replaced.

Where to Find Your Air Conditioner’s Filter

In window air conditioners, the filter is easy to find. It’s located on the front of the machine, right below the vents that spew cold air into your room. The window unit’s front panel should fold down to reveal the filter. Many window units have reusable filters.

If you have had a central air conditioning unit installed, however, your air filter may be a little more complicated to find. In central air conditioning units, the filter could be in the wall, the ceiling, or the condenser unit. You should check your owner’s manual to find out where the filter is located, or call our Phoenix AC repair service to ask where you can find your air filter. Once you’ve determined where you can find your air filter, you can remove it.

Cleaning or Replacing Your Filter

Air conditioner filter

Many units use reusable air filters. These filters can be washed off, dried, and placed back in the unit. If your unit’s filter is clogged with a thick layer of dust or pet hair, you may want to first brush the unit off gently with a toothbrush or scrub brush before rinsing it in cold water. You can hose the filter off outside, or rinse it in your kitchen sink, as you prefer.

If you have a disposable filter, you’ll have to get a new one. Disposable filters are made from paper, fiberglass, polyester, and other materials that can’t be washed. You should clean or replace your air conditioner filter at least every 60 days. If you have pets, it’s a good idea to clean or replace the filter every 30 days. Keeping your air conditioner filter clean can drastically improve your unit’s efficiency. A dirty filter can increase energy consumption by as much as 15 percent.

Choosing a Replacement Filter

If your air conditioner takes disposable filters, take the old one with you to the hardware store when you go to buy a replacement. This way, you’ll be sure to get one that’s the same size and shape as the old one, so it will fit in your unit.

When it comes to air conditioner filters, you have a few choices to make. There are generally four kinds of disposable air filters on the market:

  • Polyester filters
  • Fiberglass filters
  • Pleated filters
  • High-efficiency air filters

Air filters are rated from one to 16 according to their minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV. Fiberglass filters typically have a MERV rating of between one and four and, while they are the cheapest filters available, they won’t do anything to boost the quality of the air inside your house, if that’s a concern. Polyester and pleated filters typically have a MERV rating of between eight and 13, and can remove up to 45 percent of the pollutants in your indoor air. High-efficiency air filters have a MERV rating of between 14 and 16 and can remove up to 85 percent of the air pollutants inside your home. Some of these filters can even remove bacteria from the air; they’re used in hospitals and other environments where complete sterility is necessary.

While it’s easy to conclude that a higher MERV rating is necessarily better, that’s not always the case. The higher the MERV rating, the harder the air conditioner has to work to pull air through the filter. Many home units simply don’t have the power to pull air through a highly-rated filter. For a home unit, choose a filter with a MERV rating of no more than 12. If you’re not worried about indoor air pollutants and dust, you can choose a filter on the low end of the MERV scale, but most homeowners select one with a MERV rating of between nine and 12.

Air conditioners need basic maintenance, but it’s not that hard to keep them running smoothly. Perhaps the most important thing you can do is keep your air conditioner filter clean. Cleaning or replacing the filter regularly saves wear and tear on your unit, and keeps your energy costs down.

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