Dust, dirt, and grime are the dastardly trio often found inside your air conditioner. Over time, these common contaminants will clog up the air filter, restrict the airflow, and reduce the AC’s ability to cool properly. If left unattended for a long period of time, these dirty air filters could cause significant deterioration to your HVAC systems. Fortunately, this issue can be avoided with ongoing maintenance, as long as you clean the air conditioner filter regularly.
Cleaning your air conditioner’s filter is an important maintenance task that should be done each year before summer arrives. A full, thorough cleanse will improve the overall efficiency and longevity of your AC unit. As summer continues, homeowners are encouraged to clean the air filter several more times throughout the season. This ensures the unit is kept in a pristine condition and reduces the amount of air conditioner repair needed.
It’s important to learn the right way to clean your air conditioner filter. With enough practice, cleaning the filter will become a quick and easy task, like an effortless routine as part of your summer season. Follow this tutorial on how to clean the air conditioner filter effectively:
Step #1: Make sure the air conditioner filter is reusable.
Not all air conditioner filters are meant to be cleaned. There are two types designed for air conditioners: the reusable air filters and the disposable air filters. Some units have disposable cardboard filters that are meant to be thrown out and replaced with new ones regularly. As you could imagine, there’s no point to clean a disposable filter that you won’t be using again.
Before you start the cleaning process, check to see if your AC unit includes a reusable filter. Typically, the reusable filters will have a metal or plastic frame. Not sure which one your unit uses? Read your instruction manual to find out. The manual will also instruct you of any special cleaning procedures for the air conditioner unit.
Step #2: Determine if the AC has a self-cleaning function.
If you bought a new air conditioner, it might have an automatic cleaning function. If so, this is the easiest and fastest way to clean the filter. These modern units self-clean the filter using an internal cassette and brush device, which can remove the dust and particles. The dust is then blown outside.
Step #3: Take out the air filter.
If there’s no automatic cleaning function, then proceed to turn off your air conditioner and remove the filter. The process of removing the filter varies from unit to unit, but you will likely need to remove the cover. This can be done either by removing the screws or pressing down on the tabs for release.
Once the cover is removed, the filter should just slide out or can be easily removed. On large central air conditioning units, the filter is most often located along the return duct. For window-mounted units, you’ll need to pop off the front of the air conditioner to gain access. In wall-mounted units, you may be required to slide the front panel off.
While the filter is out, do not run your air conditioner. This will cause unfiltered air to flow through your home. It will lead to the accumulation of dirt on the air conditioner’s internal parts, such as its evaporator coils.
Step #4: Vacuum the air filter.
Once you have taken out the air filter, check its current condition. You’ll know the filter needs a good cleaning if there is any visible dust, discolouration, or greyness on its surface. Use a vacuum with an appropriate tube extension to remove the dirt from the filter. Use a low or medium setting on your vacuum, and then proceed using an up-and-down motion.
It’s important to remember that your filter is delicate, so you don’t want to press too hard while vacuuming. For lightly used or regularly cleaned air conditioners, vacuuming will likely be all you need to do.
Step #5: Wash the air filter.
If it has been a while since you cleaned your air conditioner filter, vacuuming alone might not be enough. To achieve better results, you might need to either hose down the filter or give it a bath in warm water and liquid detergent.
For a thorough bath, move the air filter around the water to displace the dirt. Then, leave it in the bath for at least 15 minutes or up to several hours. Flip it halfway through the process to clean the other side. If the filter is too large to fit into your bathtub or sink, then try hosing it off either outside or with a handheld showerhead. However, ensure that you do not use a pressurized nozzle, as it will damage the filter.
Step #6: Avoid abrasive cleaning tools.
As mentioned, air conditioner filters are delicate. It’s critical that you avoid using abrasive cleaning tools, which can harm the physical condition of the filter. For example, using wire brushes to clean the filter, while it is submerged in the soapy bath, may damage the equipment.
Step #7: Clean it with a vinegar & water mixture.
While vacuuming and hosing the filter should effectively clean it of grime, this may not kill all the bacteria present. It’s a good idea to create a cleaning solution with equal parts water and vinegar, which can be sprayed onto the filter. Wait 10 minutes, then place the filter under running water to rinse off the mixture. This should effectively kill any bacteria.
Step #8: Let the filter dry.
Hot temperatures can burn the filter, so drying is best done through natural means. Place the filter in a safe spot and allow some time for it to air dry. Alternatively, you can use a hairdryer on the “cool” function to speed up the drying process.
Make sure the air conditioner filter has dried completely before inserting it into the unit. Air dry for several hours to achieve this effect. Then, you can return the filter to the air conditioner, put the cover back on, and start the power again. You will now be able to enjoy the AC unit, which is operating with a clean and bacteria-free airflow.