How To Clean Your Air Conditioner Filter (DIY Guide)

As the scorching summer heat rolls in, there’s nothing quite like the cool, refreshing breeze from your trusty air conditioner (AC) to keep you comfortable. However, for your AC to function effectively and efficiently, it’s essential to pay attention to one often overlooked component – the AC filter.

Today, we’ll delve into:

  • What an AC filter is
  • Why it’s crucial to keep it clean
  • Signs indicating it’s time for a cleaning
  • The step-by-step process of how to clean ac filter
  • Reasons to consider professional help

By the end, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to ensure your AC runs smoothly, providing you with clean, cool air throughout the hot summer months.

What is an AC Filter?

Before diving into the cleaning process, let’s understand the role of an AC filter. An AC filter is a component within your air conditioning system designed to trap dust, dirt, pollen, and other airborne particles as air passes through. Essentially, it acts as the first line of defense, preventing these contaminants from circulating throughout your home and improving indoor air quality.

Why is it Important to Keep Your AC Filter Clean?

dirty AC filter

Maintaining a clean AC filter is vital for several reasons:

  • Efficiency: A clean filter allows air to flow freely, ensuring your AC operates efficiently. When the filter becomes clogged with dirt and debris, it restricts airflow, forcing the system to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and higher utility bills.
  • Improved Air Quality: As the filter captures airborne particles, it helps purify the air circulating in your home. A dirty filter compromises this function, allowing contaminants to recirculate, potentially exacerbating allergies and respiratory issues.
  • Extended Lifespan: Regularly cleaning or replacing your AC filter can prolong the lifespan of your air conditioning system. By reducing strain on the unit and preventing dirt buildup, you can minimize the risk of costly repairs or premature failure.
  • Cost Savings: A clean filter translates to lower energy bills. By maintaining optimal airflow, your AC operates more efficiently, reducing the amount of energy it consumes to cool your home.

Signs You Need to Clean Your AC Filter

Recognizing when your AC filter requires cleaning is essential for maintaining indoor comfort and system efficiency. Look out for these telltale signs:

Reduced Airflow:

If you notice weaker airflow from your vents, it could indicate a clogged filter obstructing the passage of air.

Increased Energy Bills:

A spike in your energy bills without a corresponding increase in usage may signal that your AC is working harder than usual, often due to a dirty filter.

Visible Dirt and Debris:

Inspect the filter regularly. If you observe a buildup of dirt, dust, or debris, it’s time for a cleaning.

Uneven Cooling:

Rooms in your home experiencing inconsistent cooling may be a result of restricted airflow caused by a dirty filter.

Musty Odors:

A foul or musty odor emanating from your vents could indicate mold or mildew growth, often due to a dirty filter retaining moisture.

How to Clean Your AC Filter in 9 Steps

Cleaning your AC filter is a relatively straightforward process that can be done with minimal tools and effort. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

1) Turn Off the Power:

Before beginning any maintenance on your AC unit, switch off the power at the circuit breaker to ensure your safety.

2) Locate the Filter:

Depending on your AC system, the filter may be located in different places, such as within the air handler unit, in a slot behind the return air grille, or within the ductwork. Consult your owner’s manual for guidance.

3) Remove the Filter:

Carefully remove the filter from its housing. Take note of its orientation to ensure you reinstall it correctly.

4) Inspect the Filter:

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

5) Vacuum or Wash the Filter:

For reusable filters, gently vacuum both sides using a soft brush attachment to remove loose dirt and debris. Alternatively, rinse the filter with water, using mild detergent if necessary. Avoid using excessive force or hot water, as this could damage the filter.

6) Allow to Dry:

If you’ve washed the filter, allow it to air dry completely before reinstalling it. Avoid reinstalling a damp filter, as this can promote mold growth.

7) Reinstall the Filter:

Once dry, carefully place the filter back into its housing, ensuring it’s properly seated and aligned according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

8) Restore Power:

After reinstalling the filter, switch the power back on at the circuit breaker to reactivate your AC unit.

9) Regular Maintenance:

Make it a habit to check and clean or replace your AC filter regularly, ideally every 1-3 months, depending on factors such as usage, indoor air quality, and the presence of pets.

Why You May Want to Call a Professional

filter installation

While cleaning your AC filter is a DIY task for many homeowners, there are instances where professional assistance may be warranted:

  • Complex Systems: If your AC system is complex or you’re unfamiliar with its components, it’s best to leave the task to a qualified HVAC technician to avoid damaging sensitive parts.
  • Limited Accessibility: Some AC units are located in hard-to-reach areas, making filter removal and cleaning challenging for homeowners without the necessary equipment or expertise.
  • Time Constraints: If you have a busy schedule or prefer to leave maintenance tasks to professionals, hiring a technician can save you time and effort.
  • Comprehensive Service: HVAC professionals can perform thorough inspections and maintenance beyond just cleaning the filter, ensuring your entire system is in optimal condition.

Cost for Professional AC Filter Cleaning

The cost of professional AC filter cleaning can vary depending on factors such as your location, the complexity of the system, and any additional services provided. On average, expect to pay between $50 to $150 for a single service visit, which may include filter cleaning or replacement, inspection, and basic maintenance tasks.

While this cost may seem higher than DIY cleaning, professional service offers the assurance of thorough maintenance by trained professionals, potentially saving you money in the long run by preventing costly repairs or premature system failure.

How Often Should You Clean Your AC Filter?

Determining the ideal frequency for cleaning your AC filter depends on several factors:

  • Usage: If you run your AC frequently, especially during peak summer months, you’ll likely need to clean or replace the filter more often to maintain optimal airflow and efficiency.
  • Indoor Air Quality: Homes with pets, smokers, or occupants with allergies may require more frequent filter cleaning to remove pet dander, smoke particles, and other allergens from the air.
  • Filter Type: Disposable filters typically need replacement every 1-3 months, while reusable filters can be cleaned and reused for several years with proper maintenance.
  • Manufacturer Recommendations: Refer to your AC unit’s owner’s manual for specific guidelines on filter maintenance and replacement intervals recommended by the manufacturer.

In general, aim to inspect your AC filter monthly and clean or replace it as needed to ensure peak performance and indoor air quality.

We’ll Care For Your Air Conditioner Filters

Your AC filter plays a crucial role in maintaining indoor comfort and air quality, making regular cleaning an essential aspect of HVAC maintenance. By understanding the importance of a clean filter, recognizing signs indicating it’s time for a cleaning, and following the recommended cleaning procedures, you can ensure your AC operates efficiently, saving energy and money while keeping your home cool and comfortable.Whether you choose to tackle filter cleaning as a DIY task or opt for professional assistance, prioritize regular maintenance to prolong the lifespan of your AC system and enjoy uninterrupted cooling throughout the summer months. With a clean filter and a well-maintained AC unit, you’ll breathe easier knowing your home is a haven of cool, fresh air, even amidst the sweltering heat. Contact Aquarius Home Services today to make sure your air conditioner’s filter is in tip top shape!

Pat Alexander
Pat Alexander
1718405710
The most thorough AC check up I have EVER had in the 18 years I have owned my house. And I get AC and furnace check up done EVERY year.
Ileana Essig
Ileana Essig
1718398249
Ethan was friendly and very informative. When he arrived, I made it clear that I was not interested in additional services, just the tuneup/inspection of my HVAC system. He went over the results and answered my questions with thorough explanations without trying to upsell me via a list of ’recommendations’, which I sincerely appreciated.
Richard Pierson
Richard Pierson
1718388233
Michael Brandt
Michael Brandt
1718382329
Nick and Marcus were knowledgeable, efficient, and friendly. Great service call.
Nathan McCauley
Nathan McCauley
1718325023
Ethan did a great job servicing our A/C unit and went above and beyond the call of duty by removing the mice that had taken up residence in the unit.Thank you.
LA Paul
LA Paul
1718317846
Nicholas and Marcus went over everything in detail and explained what should be prioritized. Even tolerated the cat that wanted to supervise their work. Great employees for Aquarius, always responsive and professional. Ended up scheduling another appointment for some electrical repair. Great company to work with.
John Stiehl
John Stiehl
1718316855
Anson MacFarlane
Anson MacFarlane
1718314204
Great service!
Joel DeMarais
Joel DeMarais
1718222835
Completely satisfied with the work Chris, Nick and Matt did installing a new Furnace and A/C system. They were very thorough, courteous and professional!
Ted ALLISON
Ted ALLISON
1718216675
Raymond Cruz
Raymond Cruz
1718192723
RayVery satisfied and impressed!Thanks to Travis, David, Adam & EricFriendly, professional and knowledgeableThey arrived explained what was going to happen and kept me updated on the process.Answered my many questions.As they finished cleaning everything up. They again insured that I had no other questions before leaving.GREAT JOB!!
Patty George
Patty George
1718150859
Brandon was great! He gave great advice, had attention to details, was helpful and trustworthy. I love that I can be in a service program with Aquarius to help me remember the updates and cleanings during the year, especially when I have too many things to remember to do. ☺️
Bryce Chu
Bryce Chu
1718148665
Nick and his partner were incredibly thorough in their inspection of my AC and furnace unit. They clearly pointed out areas of concern as well as what working properly both inside and outside. They presented clear options for repair or intervention. I felt was given all the information I needed and had all my questions answered in simple direct language that most laymen unfamiliar with jargon could understand. Highly recommend.
Dale and Carol Tilden
Dale and Carol Tilden
1718131763
Aquarius takes excellent care of my water softening and heating as well as my furnace and air conditioning systems. Also just had a new electric panel installed (needed updating).
Debra Klejeski
Debra Klejeski
1718055650
Jon answered our questions and explained everything on the checklist. He was very professional and courteous!
Jeff Peterson
Jeff Peterson
1718055086
Wally Lee
Wally Lee
1718044949
Brandon did a great job for us with our A/C general maintenance check. Very knowledgeable, and was professional and efficient.
Joe Capistrant
Joe Capistrant
1718042522
Nate is wonderful. Knows his stuff. Resolved a troublesome problem. Very pleasant, enjoyable fellow.
Cindy Rae Dainsberg
Cindy Rae Dainsberg
1718034743
Brandon was exceptional. Professional. Knowledgeable. Efficient. Kind. Caring. Remembers the client from previous visits. An excellent example of what Customer Service should be to keep customers coming back.
Gary Smith
Gary Smith
1718030176
Excellent technician. Nick is an outstanding young man and very knowledgeable. I felt like he was giving me an honest assessment of my system.
mary bond
mary bond
1717801266
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 !!
Todd Schull
Todd Schull
1717795955
Riley was the tech that performed our membership maintenance check-up. He did an outstanding job explaining what was included in the maintenance check-up. After his inspection, he was very detailed, using pictures, to help describe what he found and he made recommendations on what should be addressed now and what could wait until our next membership maintenance check-up. He was very thorough doing the repairs, cleaning impeccably both our furnace and air conditioner. We are going to request Riley for all our member maintenance check-ups going forward.
Gary Winkel
Gary Winkel
1717786300
John Keller
John Keller
1717778469
Gordy replaced my lawn faucet once it was clear that it could not be repaired. He explained the problem and the process to fix it in a clear and professional manner. The cost were what I expected for such a job.
Robert McDivitt
Robert McDivitt
1717771730
Great service from Ethan. Very helpful and professional.
Frank Potocnik
Frank Potocnik
1717721504
Service Tech Nick was great. Thank you
Anthony Mielzarek
Anthony Mielzarek
1717713912
Riley is always a professional when coming to the house for HVAC services. He is always a pleasure to deal with! Even my dogs like him!
Nancy Anderson
Nancy Anderson
1717632583
Our thermostat was not working properly. Called Aquarius & they contacted , Nick Sarinske. He arrived soon after & was able to figure out what the problem was. He explained the problem & the solution very thoroughly. Great service🙂
david e brown
david e brown
1717628659
Friendly. Fast. Great staff
Sue Austin
Sue Austin
1717607256
Chris Becker
Chris Becker
1717547200
Nick stayed until my AC problem was fixed and verified it worked, even stuck around as we were hit by a rainstorm. Very impressed. Thank you, Nick, for going the extra mile to check (and replace!) that capacitor, educate me a bit on the AC unit itself, and making sure it worked before leaving!
Lloyd Lindenfelser
Lloyd Lindenfelser
1717540351
Very knowledgeable and helpful!Received prompt estimate for repairs. Thanks, Paul
kay Linsmeier
kay Linsmeier
1717527233
Tried to take advantage of me, because I am old. Tried charging me $2100 to replace a part on unit that costs $800, per other estimates, very disappointing.
Jim Muehlbauer
Jim Muehlbauer
1717523996
Guys were on time, and did an excellent job. They explained everything to our satisfaction, Great job!
Will Determan
Will Determan
1717518929
Nick was over the top wonderful to work with, highly efficient troubleshooter, and a proper gentleman! Highly recommend!!
T.R Hinrichs
T.R Hinrichs
1717453461
Great friendly service!
barry spotts
barry spotts
1717448139
Very knowlegable
Greg Benson
Greg Benson
1717440410
Serviced our soft water system, very professional
Gary Fritz
Gary Fritz
1717427584
Brent was on time, friendly, courteous, and efficient in his work. And left no trace. Very clear as well when discussing services rendered and needs I should keep in mind.
Julie A. Stoner
Julie A. Stoner
1717261784
This was the first time we used Aquarius Service. We were really impressed! 👍 Our Technician's name was Casey Ogilvie. He was very Professional.😊 Always explained everything he was doing & was able to resolve the problem, right away & was very well informed about the task @ hand. No complaints! Seems like a really nice guy.🙂Thanks, again, Casey, for a job well done! ✅ May/2024.
Doug Hicks
Doug Hicks
1717256807
Very professional.
Hager Studios
Hager Studios
1717163166
Friendly, knowledgeable techs, good install on my furnace and heat pump. Overall a very positive experience.
Clive North
Clive North
1717158882
Aquarius installed our ERV and it's been truly mind boggling how much better our air quality in our aggressively sealed house became immediately. Timely, thoughtful, and happy to keep everyone in our household safe. Would recommend!
Paul Ciernia
Paul Ciernia
1717125673
It's not much fun when your furnace goes out on New Years Eve with a forecasted minus 18 degree night approaching. Aquarius responded quickly, determined the furnace was not repairable, came the next morning (Saturday - New Years Day) to arrange a replacement which took place on Monday. They provided us with 4 space heaters which kept us above 60 degrees for the weekend. The installation of the new furnace was quick, professional and very neat. One could say they left us feeling very warm. All the Aquarius professionals we dealt with, Service, Sales and Installation, clearly took pride in the quality of their work. And, they offered a very generous Veteran's discount. Definitely 5 Stars.
Jim Roskens
Jim Roskens
1717103899
Brendon did a thorough job.
Kenneth Janda
Kenneth Janda
1717102014
Matt from Aquarius showed me photos of the furnace blower fan before and after he cleaned it. A dramatic diference. Moreover, he detected low (20%) humidity (not good for January) and showed us how to set the smat thermostat to increase it to 35% and lower the heating temperature. Excellent service and advice.Brandon was pleasant and efficient. Replaced a part under warranty. Great job.
Mark Potter
Mark Potter
1717097910
Alec was very thorough-great job tuning up our A/C for the season
Kristina Sande
Kristina Sande
1717086091
Great service, as usual! Knowledgeable and efficient, and made sure to go through all of the details of the work that was completed.
Jeff Ericksen
Jeff Ericksen
1717006658
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