What Does an Air Conditioner Filter Do and Why Is It Important?

An air conditioner filter is an essential part of any HVAC system. Learn what it does & why it's important to change it regularly.

What Does an Air Conditioner Filter Do and Why Is It Important?

An air conditioner filter is an essential part of any HVAC system. It works to remove impurities such as dust, pet dander, and bacteria from the air that flows through the system. Not only does this improve the air quality inside your home, but it also protects your HVAC system from potential damage. The filter's main function is to trap particles and contaminants such as dust, mold, pet dander, and fungal spores.

The mesh that is the main namesake of the filter through which air passes becomes denser, thus trapping these materials and not hindering the flow of air. If you don't change the air filter as often as it should, air can't pass as easily, and more and more details have the possibility of passing through the mesh, damaging indoor air quality. Filters clean the air that flows through your home by reducing pollen, bacteria, dust, and pet dander. Air passes through the filter (or filters) and the filter material traps contaminants before they can circulate around your home.

These filters also protect the air conditioning coils and motor from the same contaminants. Air filters are a central, but often underappreciated, part of a central HVAC system. They don't just filter out bits of pollen and dust that would otherwise circulate around the house, and reduce indoor air quality. They also provide a first line of defense against larger objects, such as pieces of loose insulation that enter the system, where they could cause damage or present a fire hazard.

But if you don't change your air filter regularly, it can turn against you. Clogged air filters are the number one cause of HVAC system failures. When air is introduced into the HVAC system, it is first heated or cooled and then pushed through the ducts that lead it to every room in the house. The HVAC filter cleans the air just before it enters through the blower and circulates through the ducts.

As air is forced through the filter, the material, usually pleated cloth or paper, traps any contaminants that are in the air. An important part of the air conditioner is the filter which prevents dirt from entering the system and causing significant damage to the unit. Knowing more about the air cleaner will help you make the right choice regarding the unit. The MERV rating of a filter is generally indicated as a number between 1 and 16, although there are some filters with a rating higher than 16. In most cases, a standard filter cannot be replaced with a true HEPA filter because the ductwork is not designed for it. Air filters are generally inexpensive and changing them is a simple task that does not require a professional hand.

The efficiency level of HVAC filters will vary between different HVAC systems and different types of filters. Typically, you should change fiberglass filters every 30 days and pleated filters every 60 to 90 days.

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