Air Conditioning Filters – What You Need to Know
The filter in your air conditioning system is one of its most important components. Knowing a bit about air conditioning filters will help you to keep your cooling system in tip-top working order, for efficiency and energy savings.
Air conditioning systems do more than cool the air in your home – they really do condition it. They do this by filtering out particles in the air, which can build up on the evaporator coil and inhibit its functioning. If you’ve ever changed an air condition filter you’ll have seen the usually invisible stuff that it sucks in. As air cleaners they are used not just for temperature regulation but also as a second line of defence against potential allergens that cause hay fever, asthma and other problems.
In time any air conditioner filter that’s doing its job right will become saturated and clogged. The results are predictable: the air flow to the system is reduced and the system has to work harder to operate properly, which means higher electricity consumption and bigger bills. Dirty air condition filters can increase your energy use by 5 to 15%. Cleaning and replacing the air condition filter is therefore a key maintenance task. Postponing it also means you are building up polluting substances in your home. For those who suffer from allergies and respiratory problems this can be a problem. (Luckily the really dangerous problem associated with air condition, Legionnaire’s disease, is not usually an issue with small systems, but typically occurs in settings like hotels and office blocks.)
Various kinds of filters are available, from the simple paper type through to HEPA (high efficiency particulate air filters) that remove almost 100% of particles. They are rated by means of the MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating, which measures the particle size that different filters capture. Filters for domestic air condition are usually rated up to about 8, with a rating of 6 recommended by ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers).
Washable filters are popular because they are reusable, and seem cost-effective. However, many experts recommend the standard 1 inch pleated paper filters instead. They may need changing more often than the washable kind, but are more efficient, as well as being made from sustainable materials. Depending on how heavily you use your air conditioning system, and the level of airborne particles it has to deal with, the filters typically need to be changed every two to three months for the system to work optimally.
Changing the filters regularly is probably top of the list for maintaining efficiency – though it’s only part of the maintenance process. When you change the filters pay attention to the dust that accumulates on the evaporator coils. If you only use your air condition in the hottest part of the year it may be a good idea to get a professional to give it a proper service before you switch on. With regular attention and that all important regular filter change, your air conditioning system will do its job effectively without using unnecessary power.