Air conditioning units are relatively low maintenance, but it's important to clean or replace the unit's air filters regularly to reduce the likelihood of mold forming in the air and common allergens through forced air systems. Dirty air filters also reduce indoor air quality, so having a clean filter is essential for good indoor air quality. The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner is to replace or clean your filters on a routine basis. Dirty, clogged filters reduce the amount of airflow and significantly reduce system efficiency.
When the air flow is obstructed, air can bypass the filter and deposit dirt directly on the evaporator coil, impairing the heat absorbing capacity of the coil. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can reduce air conditioner energy consumption by 5% to 15%. A disposable filter lasts approximately three months, after which you should replace it with a new filter. Pleated filters made of disposable nonwoven fabric have smaller pores and increased surface area, allowing them to contain more particles than a flat surface.
A clogged filter will force the air conditioner to work harder to cool the air in the house, placing a burden on the air conditioning unit and increasing your utility bill. If in doubt, call the manufacturer and ask where the AC filter is located and if your system uses more than one. Clean or replace the filter(s) in your air conditioning system every month or two during the cooling season. Particulate capture efficiency increases as the filter becomes dirty; accumulation in the fibers reduces openings for air to pass through and allows the filter to capture more particles.
Like any other depreciable replacement, an AC air filter also has a useful life; using it beyond that is not recommended at all. By keeping the air conditioning filters clean, you can extend the life of your air conditioning unit and reduce energy consumption. Gently slide out the AC filter, taking care not to damage it, then take a close look. A clogged AC filter can trap cold air inside the air conditioning unit, preventing it from circulating through the ducts to the house.
It's OK to run an air conditioner for a short time without a filter, but running it for hours without a filter will eventually cause serious damage to the air conditioning unit while reducing the air quality in your home. Air cleaner maintenance and air conditioner filter changes are just one part of a complete HVAC system maintenance program that can help extend its life and ensure that it operates efficiently. To extend its life even further, fill a sink with one part water and one part white vinegar, then allow the HVAC filter to soak in the solution for one hour.