AC Air Filters: What To Know & How To Replace AC Filters

AC Air Filters: What To Know & How To Replace AC Filters

AC Filter Replacement

How to Change the AC Filter in your Home

AC filter replacement is a crucial part of the maintenance of your HVAC system. Your air filter is designed to filter out particles, dander allergens, and pollutants from the air in your home before it is pushed out of the supply vents. Learn how to change your AC filter, the diffent types of AC filters and why it's important to change them regularly.

They are often made of fiberglass thread spun onto a frame though they can sometimes be cloth or fine paper. Knowing how to change AC filters will help prevent a buildup of pollen, mold pollutants, dust, pet dander, and other debris in your home. It will also keep your HVAC system clean and functioning properly.

If you have household members who suffer from allergies or asthma, maintaining good indoor air quality in your home through AC filter replacement for your air conditioning system is critical to your health as well.

Why You Should Change Your AC Filter

It is essential to know how to change an AC filter as it is vital for not only providing proper air quality in your home but also for preventing dirt and debris from getting into your HVAC system. This debris can build up quickly, especially if you have pets or a lot of dust in your home. Regular air filter replacement will help keep your HVAC system clean, preventing wear and tear and allowing it to work more efficiently for longer.

Filter replacement is also a crucial part of keeping your HVAC system components clean. When your filter is caked with dirt and debris, it can no longer perform its function, and the pollutants and contaminants will not only push out into your air supply but also get on your HVAC components. When parts of your HVAC system, such as the coils, get dirty, they can seize up or stop functioning correctly, leading to needed repair and even a system breakdown.

HVAC Air Filters and Air Quality

One of the most important reasons to stay up on air filter replacement is to maintain good indoor air quality in your home. You can also improve your air quality even further by choosing the right air filter for the pollutants and allergens you are looking to address in your home.

HEPA air filters are designed to remove even the smallest particulate from the air, making them a good option when you have someone with asthma or allergies in your home. Activated carbon filters absorb odors, VOCs, and smoke from the air, helping to improve the smell in your home. You can also add media air cleaners to your handler, which will act as filters to remove smaller particles traveling through your ductwork.

AC Filter Dirty

HVAC Air Filters and System Life Expectancy

Changing your air filter regularly will not only improve your home’s IAQ and your system’s efficiency, but it can also increase the longevity of your HVAC system. When your filter is dirty, the airflow through your system is restricted, which can lead to your system working harder than it needs to. This will not only lead to higher energy bills but also wear and tear on your parts and even a possible breakdown. Eventually, a dirty air filter could block the flow of air completely, causing the system to overheat and leading to a costly repair. Proper maintenance and regular filter changes will keep your system operating at peak efficiency and allow it to operate well for many more years than a poorly maintained one.

What are the Different Kinds of AC Filters?

While all filters are designed to remove contaminants and pollutants from your home, to improve indoor air quality, different ones will have different MERV rating ranges and be made of different types of material. You should always use the right size and type of filter for your system to ensure proper airflow and removal of contaminants. The most common types of air filters include:

Furnace Filter Types

Fiberglass Filters

The least expensive type of filters are fiberglass filters. These filters put very little strain on your system but do not do as well in removing smaller particles from the air. If your family members suffer from respiratory problems or allergies, you may need a filter with more robust filtration capabilities. Fiberglass filters often have a MERV rating of 2 or 3.

Pleated Filters

Pleated filters are one of the more common filters found in systems today, and while they are slightly more expensive than fiberglass ones, they filter out smaller particles such as dust. They are made from cotton or polyester and use a series of folds to trap debris better. Pleated filters typically have a MERV rating of 5 to 8.

HEPA Filter

The filter that best filters smaller particulates from the air is the HEPA filter. They are more expensive than the other two options but have an effective rating of over 99% for the removal of pet dander, pollen, mold, bacteria, and viruses. They typically have a MERV rating over 11. They are the ideal option for homes where people may suffer from asthma or allergies.

UV Filters

While UV filters are not often found as the main filters in HVAC systems, they can often be found with a HEPA filter or other filter types in air cleaners that attach directly to the HVAC system. UV filters use UV light to kill viruses and can help to reduce the spread of airborne illness in the home. Since these filters are not designed to trap particulates such as dust and hair, there are always paired with a filter designed to trap contaminants.

How Much Does an AC Filter Cost?

ac filter

Many factors will determine the cost of your air filter. The first is the type of filter you choose. HEPA filters are the most costly, while fiberglass filers will be the least expensive. The size of your filter and your preferred brand will also play a part in the cost, but not as much as the type. The final factor determining the cost of your filter is the type of system it is being used for, whether it is a portable, ducted, or ductless system.

How to Change your AC Filter

AC filter replacement is crucial no matter the type of system you have. While a filter change will often be performed during your regularly scheduled maintenance, knowing how to change the AC filter yourself is essential, as it will need to be changed between bi-annual maintenance visits. Below you will see how to change AC filter, depending on the type of air conditioner that you have.

Changing AC Air Filters in Portable Air Conditioners

AC filter replacement is relatively easy on a portable air conditioner and will help ensure it works efficiently and effectively. Learning how to change the AC filter for your unit may require consulting your owner’s manual, but below are some basic steps that will work with most types.

  1. Turn off and unplug the unit to ensure safety during the filter cleaning or changing.
  2. Remove the filter from the unit. Filters are likely on the back or the side and can be removed by pulling up a tab.
  3. Vacuum the dust from the filter and wash it with cool water.
  4. If the filter is damaged or the debris can’t be removed, you need to replace them.
  5. Put the filter back in and plug in the unit.

Changing AC Air Filters in Ducted HVAC

AC filter replacement in a ducted HVAC system is pretty simple as well and is one of the best maintenance functions you can perform to ensure that the system will continue to perform as it should.

  1. Turn off your system: The first step in the AC filter replacement process is turning off your system. This will allow you to be safer during the process and make the process safer for your system, as removing the filter while the system is running may lead to debris normally trapped by the filter getting into the other components.
  2. Locate the filter compartment: The next step is to find the filter's location, which can be a little tricky as it can be in multiple locations. In some systems, they will be by the return air duct. In others, it may be by the air handler or the blower system. You may need to open a compartment to get to it, or your filter may be immediately visible.
  3. Remove the old filter: Slide the old filter out of the compartment, taking note of which way it is facing.
  4. Inspect your filter: Look over the condition of your filter to see if it needs to be cleaned or replaced. Even if it is before the time for a standard replacement, if it has a lot of dirt, it may be a good time to swap it for a new one.
  5. Clean or replace the filter: If your filter is disposable, you will want to remove it. If you have a reusable filter, which is often made of a more durable material and has material that is washable, you will need to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning it.
  6. Dispose of the used filter: Since the filter contains trapped contaminants, putting it in a trash bag or covering it with plastic before throwing it away is a good idea.
  7. Insert a new or clean filter: Put the new or cleaned filter into your system, ensuring that the arrows are facing the right way, so the air flows correctly through your filter. The arrows should always point away from the return and toward the air handler.
  8. Turn the system back on: Once you have completed your filter change, you can turn the system back on.

Changing Air Filters in Ductless AC Systems

If you have a mini-split system, you may be wondering how to change the AC filter on a ductless unit. These compact systems have simple maintenance, with AC filter replacement being one of the easy maintenance tasks. To change the air filter in the ductless system, you will need to:

  1. Turn off your system: For safety reasons, you will want to turn your system off by the temperature control, which is most likely a remote that controls the thermostat.
  2. Locate the blower unit on your system: The filter is located in the blower unit of the system, which will be mounted on the wall. Gently lift the cover from the bottom, and you will see the filters sitting on the unit's evaporator coils.
  3. Slide the filters out of the system: The filters in a ductless system will be held in place by grooves, which means they will need to be slid out gently. Push from the bottom to release it, and ensure you don’t handle the filter roughly, or the duct can fall off and make a mess.
  4. Clean your filters: You will next need to remove the dirt and debris from the filters gently. One of the best ways to do this is by using the spray nozzle on your kitchen sink. You will then want to leave them out until they have dried completely. If you notice that much of the debris is dry, you can vacuum the loose debris off first using your vacuum attachment. Just ensure the suction on your vacuum isn’t too high, or it could damage the filter.
  5. Reinstall your filters: Once your filters have been allowed to dry completely, it is time to reinsert them. Make sure that you get the edges of the filter into the proper channels before sliding it back in so that it is back securely in place. Latch them to secure them, and then close the cover of the blower.
  6. Turn your system back on: Once your filter is installed back in your AC unit and everything is closed, you can turn your system back on and use it.


  • AC filters are designed to trap pet dander, dust, bacteria, debris, and other pollutants that may be in the air in your home and prevent them from traveling to your HVAC system and back out into the heated or cooled air.
  • AC filter replacement is of vital importance to the maintenance of your air conditioner.
  • Clean HVAC filters can help to improve the indoor air quality in your home, lower your energy bills, and prolong the life of your HVAC system.
  • Different types of filters filter different levels of contaminants out.
  • Filters with a higher MERV rating will filter out smaller particles, but too high of a rating can cause airflow restriction in your system and lower efficiency.
  • Learning how to change AC filters is simple, no matter what type of system you have in your home.
  • While AC filter replacement is a part of your standard HVAC maintenance, you will likely need to change it between maintenance visits to keep your system clean and functioning correctly.

Superior Home Supplies is Here to Help With All Your filter Needs

Whether you are looking for filters for an air cleaner, a filter for a portable air conditioner unit, or a filter for your HVAC system, Superior Home Supplies has filters from the best brands in the HVAC industry. Not sure which MERV rating will work best in your household? Or maybe you have a question about the size and type of filter for your system? Our knowledgeable team at Superior Home Supplies can help you through your question so that you can find the best filter to suit your needs.

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