Cleaning Your Air Conditioner Filter (DIY Guide)

cleaning your air conditioner filter, man smiling

Air conditioning (AC) systems are essential for maintaining comfortable indoor environments, especially during hot summer months. However, to ensure their optimal performance and longevity, regular maintenance is crucial.

One key aspect of AC maintenance is cleaning or replacing the air filter. In this guide, we’ll dive into:

  • What an AC filter is
  • Its importance
  • How to clean it
  • Maintenance frequency
  • When to replace it
  • Why professional intervention might be necessary

Stop Googling “how to clean AC filter,” and get the facts you need below!

What is an AC Filter?

An AC filter, also known as an air filter or HVAC filter, is a component of the air conditioning system responsible for trapping dust, dirt, pollen, pet dander, and other airborne particles. These filters are typically made of fiberglass, pleated paper, cloth, or a combination of these materials. They come in various sizes and densities, with higher density filters offering better filtration but potentially restricting airflow if not maintained properly.

Importance of Cleaning Your AC Filter

The primary function of an AC filter is to maintain indoor air quality by capturing pollutants before they circulate throughout your home or office. A clean filter ensures efficient airflow, improves air quality, and helps prevent the buildup of dirt and debris on sensitive AC components such as coils and fans. Neglecting filter maintenance can lead to decreased system efficiency, increased energy consumption, higher utility bills, and even premature AC system failure.

woman and her child enjoying their newly cleaned air conditioner filter

How to Clean Your AC Filter: 7 Steps

Cleaning your AC filter is a relatively simple task that can be done without professional assistance. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

1) Turn Off the AC:

Before attempting to clean the filter, switch off the power to your AC system to prevent any accidents or damage.

2) Locate the Filter:

The filter is usually located behind the return air grille, which is typically situated on a wall or ceiling. In some systems, the filter may be located inside the air handler unit.

3) Remove the Filter:

Depending on the type of filter and the AC system, you may need to unscrew the grille or slide it out to access the filter. Carefully remove the filter from its housing.

4) Inspect the Filter:

Examine the filter for visible dirt, dust, and debris. If it’s heavily soiled or damaged, consider replacing it rather than cleaning it.

5) Clean the Filter:

If the filter is reusable, gently vacuum it using a brush attachment or rinse it under lukewarm water. Avoid using hot water or harsh chemicals, as they can damage the filter material. Let the filter dry completely before reinstalling it.

6) Reinstall the Filter:

Once the filter is clean and dry, place it back into its housing, ensuring it’s properly aligned and securely in place.

7) Turn On the AC:

After reinstalling the filter, turn the power back on to your AC system and monitor its performance to ensure proper airflow.

How Often Should You Clean Your AC Filter?

The frequency of filter cleaning depends on various factors, including the type of filter, the environment, and usage patterns. As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended to inspect and clean or replace your AC filter every 1 to 3 months. However, certain factors may necessitate more frequent maintenance:

  • Pets: If you have pets, especially those that shed fur, you may need to clean or replace your filter more often to prevent pet dander and hair buildup.
  • Allergies: Individuals with allergies or respiratory conditions may benefit from more frequent filter maintenance to ensure optimal air quality.
  • High Usage: During peak cooling or heating seasons, when your AC system is running more frequently, you may need to clean or replace the filter more often to maintain efficiency.

Regularly inspecting your filter and monitoring indoor air quality can help you determine the appropriate maintenance schedule for your specific circumstances.

clean ac filter

When Should You Replace Your AC Filter?

While cleaning your AC filter can prolong its lifespan, there comes a point when replacement is necessary. Signs that indicate it’s time to replace your filter include:

  • Visible Damage: If the filter is torn, damaged, or deteriorating, it should be replaced to ensure effective filtration.
  • Persistent Odors: If you notice persistent musty or unpleasant odors despite cleaning the filter, it may be saturated with contaminants and should be replaced.
  • Reduced Airflow: A clogged or dirty filter can restrict airflow, leading to reduced cooling or heating efficiency. If you notice decreased airflow from your vents, it’s time to check and possibly replace the filter.
  • Increased Energy Bills: A dirty or clogged filter can cause your AC system to work harder, resulting in higher energy consumption and utility bills. If you notice a sudden increase in energy costs, a dirty filter could be the culprit.

Why You Should Leave it to a Professional

While cleaning or replacing your AC filter is a relatively straightforward task, certain circumstances may warrant professional intervention:

Complex Systems:

In some AC systems, accessing and replacing the filter may require specialized tools or knowledge. If you’re unsure about how to safely access or handle your AC filter, it’s best to leave it to a professional.

Integrated Systems:

Some modern AC systems feature integrated filtration systems that require professional expertise for maintenance and replacement.

Health Concerns:

If you have respiratory issues, allergies, or sensitivities to dust and pollutants, hiring a professional ensures thorough cleaning and minimizes your exposure to airborne contaminants.

Warranty Considerations:

Attempting DIY maintenance on your AC system, including filter cleaning or replacement, could void your warranty. Professional HVAC technicians are trained to perform maintenance tasks while adhering to warranty guidelines.

mother and daughter enjoying their air conditioner

Take Care of Your Air Conditioner Filter

Regular maintenance of your AC filter is essential for ensuring optimal performance, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality. By understanding the importance of filter maintenance, knowing how to clean or replace your filter, and recognizing when to seek professional assistance, you can keep your AC system running smoothly and enjoy a comfortable indoor environment year-round.Make filter maintenance a priority in your HVAC maintenance routine to reap the benefits of cleaner air and a more efficient cooling and heating system. Contact Aquarius Home Services to learn more!

mavis eng
mavis eng
1721659008
sandra lee
sandra lee
1721519155
Nina Sebregts
Nina Sebregts
1721407360
Ethan did a fantastic job! He did a great job analyzing the system, providing recomendations and information needed to make an informed decision. He took his time explaining what was done and why. Thank you!
John Teichroew
John Teichroew
1721399810
Thumbs up for... (1) GOOD COMMUNICATION, between the office/dispatcher and service technician and, to be appreciated even more so, between the technician and ourselves, the homeowners, by keeping us posted on his current timetable and probable ETA; (2) careful evaluation of our split-ductless AC system and its units, both inside and outside the house; (3) upfront and forthright TRANSPARENCY from the service tech, showing us both existing problem areas as well as potential problem areas, and apprising us of precise cost(s) involved in rectifying those situations; (4) a demonstration of professional expertise in identifying the primary problem - in this instance, an ever-so-slight but incremental leak of coolant; (5) SUCCESSFULLY making the necessary repairs and restoring the system to proper functionality - which, ultimately, is what we were in pursuit of; and (6) throughout this whole process, encompassing a period of more than three hours, Aquarius' service tech, David Boggie, was altogether CORDIAL and PERSONABLE.Thank you!
Stephanie Thomas
Stephanie Thomas
1721339023
Nick and his apprentice Tim were amazing. Very thorough and took the time to explain everything! Very upfront with the issues found and explained all my options. I would highly recommend them.
Alan Gengenbach
Alan Gengenbach
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Jeff Lorenz
Jeff Lorenz
1721335367
Eric was very professional did a great job!
T B
T B
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Brian Newell
Brian Newell
1721323892
Casey and Adam were very friendly and professional. They answered all my questions
Candace Lovett
Candace Lovett
1721319933
Where are my pictures
Audrey DeYoung
Audrey DeYoung
1721308525
Matt Kallenberg
Matt Kallenberg
1721271096
Nick and Tim were great. Nick really knows his stuff and is super thorough. I would definitely recommend him
Bill Bush
Bill Bush
1721257086
mary bond
mary bond
1721255131
Our water heater went out on Fri evening. We called Aquarius early Sat morning and they said earliest they could get out was Mon. On Sun I received a text confirming our Mon appointment but on Mon morning they called and said the earliest they could get to us was the following week !We should be without hot water till then ? We are not a new customer…. 5 months previously we had a new furnace and air conditioner installed at quite an expense. I am appalled at their service or rather lack there of ! As an established customer they felt waiting approximately 10days without water was acceptable Bad, Bad, Bad !Two weeks later…The air conditioner Aquarius installed in Dec failed to cool when we turned it on on our 1st warm days. After the poor experience I had had with them I didn’t want to deal with them again but since it was under warranty I had to. We were told we would have a technician out Wed morning. After waiting at home all day they called and canceled at 4pm. We were rescheduled for Fri morning. We had several calls during the day with updates At 5:22 pm we received a cal the tech would be here at 6pm. We cancelled our dinner reservation and are awaiting his arrival.I realize our air conditioning is not an emergency but we have spent 2days waiting for our scheduled service. This is in addition to the 10days they wanted us to wait for a new water heater(which I do think is an emergency) I feel bad for the tech who I’m sure has had a long day and must now come at 6 on a Fri evening. Once again I repeat Aquarius has failed us again !!Wow !!!Now July ….it continues !! The duct from our air conditioning system has come loose and is spewing cold air in my basement. A service technician arrived and said the wrong connection was used. He said he would order the right part and return the next day. (Wednesday) The appointment was scheduled for today for between 12 - 3. When no one arrived by 3pm, I called and was told the part hadn’t arrived and they would reschedule for next Monday…5 days out.UGH…. I would have thought someone could have called before I wasted several hours waiting and now I can look forward to several days without efficient air conditioning and another day of waiting for a technician. Life is too short to have to deal with such repeated poor work and lousy service !! Oh, but they did say they’re sorry 😢
Sim Ngiratregd
Sim Ngiratregd
1721248048
Micah Williams plumbing technician performed excellent job inspecting our house plumbing system, recommended new water heater because the existing one is over 17 years old. Within 4.5 hours the new water heater was installed with quality and workmanship exceeding my expectations. The purchase price was great as well as the purchase financing option. Over service rating is Excellent!
Cathy Luk
Cathy Luk
1721247854
I was very happy with Brent'service. He was professional and patient in explaining the problem he found with my AC. If future problems arise, I will definitely ask for him.
Melissa Cain
Melissa Cain
1721247236
Aquarius has always had amazing customer service. We recently had our furnace and ac replaced and their team have been informative and personable while maintain professionalism. Thank you to Nicholas Sarinske, Mike Sippel, Matt Kellenberger, Nate Huettl, and anyone else I may have forgotten.
Dan Carlson
Dan Carlson
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Boni Beisell
Boni Beisell
1721154216
EVERYONE at Aquarius is extremely customer oriented! From first contact with customer service: "Thank you for calling Aquarius Home Service, How can I make you smile today?" (that happily delivered addage always does), all the way through to their exemplary Home Service techs, I have always felt well taken care of; as though their #1 goal was to insure my needs be met, to my highest satisfaction. Aquarius Maintenance technicians are polite and respectful of my home and personal time. They go to great pains to take pictures of any equipment they're working on & point out current issues along with potential future things to be aware of - all in plain English - so I can make informed decisions on fixes needed now or plan pros & cons of 'holding off for a while'. They don't push, they give facts, share expertise, let me decide. . . . and make me smile, everytime.I will happily encourage friends & family to call Aquarius for home service.
LuAnn Suilmann
LuAnn Suilmann
1721152199
Ethan was polite, knowledgeable, and efficient on time. Well done. Very happy.
Dave W
Dave W
1721144718
Very good communications and tech skills. Good info on repair or replace decision.
Ed Bailen
Ed Bailen
1721136513
Nick and Tim did a very thorough job in diagnosing my mom's furnace/ac problems.I would highly recommend them.
Jack Livingston
Jack Livingston
1721093363
Nicholas was an extremely helpful technician. He was thorough and fixed our issue at a reasonable cost. We were impressed with the customer service we got both from him and everyone at Aquarius. Thanks for getting us in within 24 hours, fixing our air conditioning and explaining what was going on.
Sandy Oldeen
Sandy Oldeen
1721089662
Mike Lauer from Aquarius came to service my A/C. Mike was so kind in informing me of my options. He had my trust right away. In the end I purchased a new unit. Mike is definitely an asset to Aquarius. Thanks for the good service Mike!
Karen Arcand
Karen Arcand
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Leigh Griffith
Leigh Griffith
1720985156
Nick did a nice job of showing us what was affecting our AC and the problems that were looming with our furnace.
Scott Moore
Scott Moore
1720976548
The technician worked hard and did a great job.
Mary Cole
Mary Cole
1720816564
Had technician, Nathan come to perform yearly check on AC Very knowledgeable and explained everything. Bonus points for fixing the pesky rattle from the ductwork!
Jessica McDougall
Jessica McDougall
1720815008
Aquarius has consistently been great at fast response times, responsive communication, and willingness to teach about the maintenance procedures they perform. We will never go back to anyone else!
Nancy Melvin
Nancy Melvin
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Provided prompt and professional service.
Sean M
Sean M
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Stephen Clonkey
Stephen Clonkey
1720801379
Riley was very thorough and communicated with us very well.
Jessica Kohl
Jessica Kohl
1720723436
Mike C was my technician and he was AWESOME, very nice, knowledgeable, respectful inside my home (wore booties, didn’t touch newly painted walls, even picking up clumps of insulation on the carpet and putting in his pocket so it wasn’t on the floor, turning off lights) he was great!
Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson
1720718604
Highly recommend Aquarius Home Services. Mike was very professional and explained everything in easy to understand detail. Keep up the good work!
Natalia Yasama
Natalia Yasama
1720656615
There is no better technician than Riley !Very professional, honest , perfectionist. 11 stars service .
Karl Witt
Karl Witt
1720640365
Super great experience! Air conditioning went out at 10 o’clock in the morning and the technician arrived here by 1:45 and completed the repair in less than 45 minutes. Graham, the technician, was really awesome and did a great job with repair.
Bonster Bon
Bonster Bon
1720639807
He did a good job representing your company young man explain things thank you Ethan
JD Smith
JD Smith
1720631805
Excellent deal, sales person, and installation techs. Staff are friendly, they listen to you, and are professional! Two thumbs up! Thank you Thomas, Mick, and Jeff!
Hans Schroeder
Hans Schroeder
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Mary Schmuland
Mary Schmuland
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Professional, proficient, courteous, and going above and beyond! We were extremely satisfied with John and his plumbing services; removed garbage disposal, connected new faucet and soap dispenser, rectified hook-up with Aquarius water filter to our refrigerator, and installed new sink drains. He was prompt, worked in a congested cabinet, and did a superb job with attention to details. Would be glad to trust him and his expertise, again! Pleasant and focused!
Carmelo Panetta
Carmelo Panetta
1720569940
Brandon did a great job cleaning five mini split airconditioning, including fixing a broken one.
Ayrlahn Johnson
Ayrlahn Johnson
1720566419
The Boogieman came out and fixed our furnace and AC in one fell swoop. Got them both working. We were heated up a bit but now Cooler heads 😎 are prevailing!
Gregg Barker
Gregg Barker
1720566016
Riley and Brent did an awesome job. The communication with scheduling and knowing when someone was coming was frustrating as the time kept changing.
Becky Hansen
Becky Hansen
1720565057
No pressure sales appointment tget went over all tge options, got an appointment with 3 days to have the install. The install guys gave ne s call ahead. They put in the nee furnace & AC unit, explained what they did and also showed us. They took ff the service call charge as we bought the units as it was not worth fixing (our AC was 41 years old we found out) Travis Lee and his partner were professional and very knowledgeable. Would highly recommend Aquarius
Denise Bratvold
Denise Bratvold
1720545466
Another seamless experience with Aquarius Home Services. The timely communication with Jeremy from before arrival continued as he worked through my water heater problem and options for solutions. Would highly recommended AHS.
LaNae Christenson
LaNae Christenson
1720536581
Chris came to evaluate a slow leak and quickly found the source of the problem. He gave the best and worst case scenario and got to work right away. I appreciated his candor and professionalism throughout the entire process and am very pleased with the result. I would definitely call again if needed.
Barb Galvez
Barb Galvez
1720535493
Tech was awesome, friendly and very well qualified for my AC tune ups.
melissa goldman
melissa goldman
1720478062
Just can't say enough good things about Aquarius. We've general contracted a couple of our own homes and have never worked with such professional, knowledgeable and kind people. We had a Kinetico system installed that Brian coordinated. Even though we have Kinetico water filtration in other homes and are familiar, he pointed out things that we didn't know. Paul worked on our plumbing and was equally wonderful. Just made everything so easy. We had a sizeable amount of electrical work done by Dave and AJ and Erik. Absolutely top shelf every step of the way. AJ even, on his own time, went in search of a scarce part we needed to finish the upgrades. He found it and finished in one day! AJ really went above and beyond throughout. They all did. Truly so grateful to the teams and can't recommend them highly enough.
Linda Thompson
Linda Thompson
1720473879
They installed a tank less water heater. We were very impressed with their work. Very knowledgeable and courteous. A GREAT team.
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