Proper airflow is integral to the efficient operation of your air conditioner. The AC filter is there to trap particulates but without disrupting that airflow. However, as the filter gets dirty, resistance is increased and thus airflow is diminished. There are two primary types of air filters sold on the market: disposable and electrostatic. Disposable filters are meant to be discarded and replaced, which means that they will last three months at best. Electrostatic filters—also called washable and reusable filters—can be cleaned and reused. They generally last at least five years, and some are designed to last a decade or even more.
Inspect Filters and Determine Which Need Cleaning
How often your air filters need to be cleaned depends on your unique environment. Your filters may need monthly cleaning or just quarterly. Rather than provide you a general rule, we recommend performing a visual inspection of all filters once a month. If you can see dust, then it is time to clean that filter. If not, it can wait until next month. Keep track of which filters have been cleaned and when. If you get to the three-month mark with an uncleaned filter, go ahead and clean it regardless of how it looks. While doing this inspection, this is a great time to dust all aspects of the registers that you can easily reach.
Tip: Avoid Hot Summer Days and Cold Winter Days
We recommend avoiding very hot summer days and very cold winter days. In both cases, it is more difficult to clean the filters thoroughly, and there is more chance to introduce moisture to your HVAC system. You are better off cleaning your filters a few days early or few days late in these instances.
Gather Tools and Supplies
You have identified one or more filters that require cleaning, so it is time to gather your supplies and set up your outdoor workspace. Choose an outdoor space that has easy access to a utility sink ideally or at least a garden hose. You will also need a vacuum and the stronger the better. A powerful wet-dry vacuum is preferable, but in lieu of that, you can use a handheld vacuum or even some of the attachments on your house vacuum. We also recommend rubber gloves and some cleaning rags.
Turn Off the HVAC System and Remove the AC Filters
Before you remove any of the AC filters, you will want to disable the air conditioning system. You can do this through the thermostat, but we also recommend turning the breaker off either via the outside HVAC breaker switch or the home electrical panel. This will avoid anyone inadvertently enabling the system while you work and introducing unfiltered particulates into the system. Remove all of the AC filters that need to be cleaned. Be careful not to jostle them too much and introduce dust to your home. We like to carry a plastic bag to hold them, and that limits the amount of dust that shakes free.
Move All Filters to Clean to an Outdoor Workspace
Take your bag of air filters out to your work area. Remove each AC filter from the bag and prop it against a wall or other upright surface. Avoid shaking the filters. You can inadvertently damage them, and the vacuum should provide more than enough power to remove all of the dirt from the filters.
Vacuum Each AC Filter
Since you are putting the effort into cleaning your AC filter, it is best to go ahead and take a methodical approach. Hold the filter in one hand at the top. Hold the vacuum with the other. Be systematic, and let the powerful vacuum linger over each area in order to get as much of the particulate matter as possible. When that side is complete, flip the filter around and repeat the process.
Tip: Avoid Brushing the Filter
Use a small focused vacuum attachment, and keep the attachment at least a half-inch away from the filter. Never brush the filter or use any other abrasive method. Although reusable, such filters are not designed for that kind of abuse, and you will almost certainly reduce the lifespan of the filter.
Wash Each AC Filter
Some homeowners only wash their filters if vacuuming is not enough to remove all signs of residue, which is fine if you are cleaning them month in and month out regardless. But since we only clean them as needed, we prefer to go ahead and wash them. Using a utility sink is preferable, but a garden hose will do the trick. Never use a powerful water jet. Think of it more like rinsing the dishes. Start at one corner and continue along until the entire filter has been thoroughly rinsed. Note that there are cleaning solutions available for air filters, but they are generally unnecessary in our experience.
Allow Cleaned Filters to Air Dry
One issue with washing your AC filters is that you have to ensure that they are dry before you put them back in. If there is any moisture on them at all, there is a good chance it will enter the system where it has the potential to cause mold. We recommend letting them dry in a protected area for 20 minutes minimum and 30 minutes to be safe. We also do not advise using a fan or similar to speed up the drying process because that can force air through the medium and reduce its lifespan. While waiting, this is a good time to clean the work area and put everything else away.
Replace All of the AC Filters
Once all the AC filters are dry, its time to replace them one by one. Double-check that the face and inner face of the register and the immediate inside area of the duct are free of dust. Make sure that the filter is properly oriented, if applicable, and ensure that it is seated correctly but without too much force. Once it is in place, close the register cover and ensure that the latch is closed and flush.
Reenable the HVAC System
Do a once-through once more to ensure that all registers and vents are cleaned and in place. Enable any of the breaker switches that you had disabled. Return the thermostat, and turn the system on. Ensure that the settings are appropriate. Wait for the system to turn on, and there you go.
Meeting Your Air Conditioning Needs in Las Vegas and Bountiful
Express Home Services has been in business for 15 years now, and we are proud of the reputation we have earned serving customers throughout Las Vegas and the surrounding areas and throughout Bountiful and the neighboring communities. Our team performs all manner of air conditioner maintenance and are here to answer any questions you may have about cleaning your reusable AC filters. Our company also installs, maintains and repairs heating equipment, and our plumbing services extend to toilets, showers and baths, sinks, tankless water heaters, standard water heaters and water-softening systems. Call us or contact us online to learn more about services or to schedule an appointment or consultation.