Air Conditioning 101: What Does the Filter Do?

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The aircon filter is the part of an air conditioner responsible for blocking out dust and debris from the unit to provide clean, cool air in the room. In this article, we’ll walk you through what an aircon filter does in an air conditioner, and the common signs that indicate it’s time to clean it.

What is an Aircon Filter?

An air filter, also called an HVAC filter or simply filter, traps dust, debris, mold spores, and general particulate matter in the air as the air passes through its mesh. Filters are integral parts of any AC unit, and these air filters improve indoor air quality around the space as long as the AC filter is kept clean.

Air filters work using a mesh system that traps small particulate matter, such as pet dander, mold spores, and general dust. In a heating and cooling system, the air filters may involve a series of HVAC filters with succeedingly finer mesh to trap even the smallest of dust specks. The finer the mesh of a filter, the more contaminants it can remove from the air.

Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) Ratings

Air filters are categorized by their Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, or MERV. A higher MERV rating indicates that the HVAC filter is better in trapping different types of particle size, and are generally favored over air filters with lower MERV ratings.

A high-efficiency particulate air filter should have a MERV rating between 8-10 for average homes and offices. Ratings below the threshold may not be as efficient in keeping smaller particles out of your unit, while ratings above 10 may be restricting airflow. A MERV rating between 11-13, however, is recommended for areas with high pollution levels.

HEPA filters have a MERV rating of 17 or higher, and are generally some of the most efficient home air filter types in the market. However, higher MERV ratings may also mean higher energy consumption, so it is best to consult with an HVAC professional to know the right kind of filter for your space and area.

The Importance of an Air Filter in an HVAC System

1. Provides Clean Indoor Air

The main function of the air filter is to clean the air. As the HVAC system pulls air from the room through its vents, the air passes by the air conditioner filters where smaller particles are trapped within the mesh. As a result, the air conditioner blows cleaned, dry air back into the room.

2. Prevents Dust Buildup Inside the Unit

The filter sits by the vents of HVAC systems, preventing dust and debris from entering the unit. This helps to keep the unit in good working condition, as dust buildup can lead to a multitude of problems with an air conditioner.

Dust buildup can lead to an air conditioner overheating, getting mold growth, and freezing up, which is why air conditioner maintenance includes routine cleaning schedules. AC air filters keep the dust out of your unit, avoiding the high costs of frequently having your air conditioner cleaned as well.

3. Prevents Mold Growth and Allergens

Fine mesh air filters with high MERV ratings can trap miniscule particles like mold spores, pet dander, and dust specks. These air filters are highly effective in removing allergens in the air, and preventing mold growth from inside the unit that may cause allergies. A fine air filter may also trap pathogens and viruses, keeping your space healthy!

Diagnosing a Faulty Air Filter

#1 Poor Air Quality

An air filter works to remove particles in the air, and if you notice minimal change in the level of particles indoors, despite using your HVAC systems, then your filter may be dirty or clogged, and can no longer filter out particles from entering your HVAC system. Cleaning the filter should alleviate the problem.

To clean clogged AC filters, dislodge the filter from your unit according to the manufacturer's instructions on your user's manual. Remove the filter, and check whether the filter can be washed. Clean washable filters with soap and water, then hang to dry before placing it back into the unit. Use a brush attachment to vacuum filters that cannot be washed.

#2 HVAC System is Blowing Warm Air

Clogged filters tend to overwork your heating and cooling systems as the HVAC system uses more force to pull air through the dense air filter. This leads to your AC unit overheating, and blowing warm air into the room instead of cold air. Cleaning the clogged filter should immediately remedy the problem.

#3 HVAC System is Freezing Up, or Smells Musty

Dirty HVAC filters lead to a number of problems with your air conditioners, including a frozen AC system, and mold growth. You may notice your AC system short cycling as well, or a musty odor from using your unit. Cleaning your air filter is the first step in fixing the problem as the majority of AC problems start with a dirty air filter.

How Often Should You Change the Aircon Filter?

For best results, we recommend changing and cleaning aircon filters every three months. In a tropical country like Singapore, it is very easy for the volume of dust and dirt to build up inside your unit due to the warm weather. Thus, cleaning or changing these filters every quarter is a good measure to keep it and the unit in good condition.

The problem of haze pollution is a recurring phenomenon in Singapore. This atmospheric event brings in high volumes of dust, smoke, and other dry particulates that can make it harder for people to see things and even breathe properly. In this period, dust and other dirty particles can easily make their way into the aircon and inside the filter.

Thus, it’s always necessary to make a regular schedule of cleaning your aircon and the filter after every haze period in the country.  Sticking to this schedule will help you get rid of the harsh impurities that can potentially infect your skin and other health-related problems that can plague your home through the filter.

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Pro tip: During an appointment, take the opportunity to ask our aircon technicians for their advice on how often you should clean or replace your disposable filters.

Your Trusted Aircon Service Expert in Singapore

The practice of cleaning and changing the aircon filter regularly can give you and your aircon unit a lot of wonders in the long run. From comfortable cooling temperatures to cleaner air quality and longer unit lifespan, these benefits can improve your overall air conditioning and health experience.

If you want a fast, easy and professional aircon filter cleaning service, give us a call or message us here at Luce Aircon! 

Also read: Air Conditioning 101: What Does the AC Blower Motor Do?
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