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How to clean aircon filters

If you want to get the most out of your air conditioner and extend its lifespan, you should perform regular maintenance to your system.

The first step is to clean the aircon filters. An air conditioner filter is a removable part often made of nylon. Its function is to filter the air that enters the unit and clean it by trapping dirt and a degree of microparticles including dust.

Air conditioner filters tend to become clogged mainly due to dust particles. If they become partially or fully blocked, this can cause problems such as motor overload, overheated components, compressor floodback, and/or dripping water.

Furthermore, if you don’t clean the filters regularly, your aircon will have reduced performance, poor energy efficiency, and its life span will reduce. The excess dust particles will also affect people in the home or building suffering from allergies.

At this point, you may be wondering, “how do I clean my aircon filters?”. Well, you can pick up some tips here to do it yourself before calling in the experts for regular maintenance.

How to clean a ducted filter?

The most effective way to maintain an air conditioning system is to clean the filters regularly.  This is also a critical way to help ensure a healthy environment in your home or business; especially if you have a ducted aircon system where the same air is circulated around and around.

Ducted air circulates through the building and it is blown out through outlets in every room.  The air is then sucked back into the aircon system, and the cycle repeats. In this way, given the cycle of the airflow, the cleanliness of the air largely depends on how clean the filters are.

Remember that a filter prevents dust and airborne particles from recirculating indoors. If filters are dirty, further particles cannot be captured by them. This will cause dirt to enter the indoor unit and cause dirty air to flow out into every air-conditioned room as a result.

Furthermore, the aircon system will have to work harder if the filter is blocked and airflow is reduced. Sadly, this can cause unnecessary air conditioner damage.

At this point, you may think that the cleaning process is kind of complicated.  However, it is simpler than you may think.

The first step is to make sure the filters need to be cleaned. To do this, you can hold a filter up to the light and see if you can see light through it. If you cannot see light or it is very dull, you will need to clean it or change it depending on the filters you have (washable or disposable).

What are the steps to follow?

  1. The first thing you should do is to make sure the AC system is off.
  2. After that, you should undo the return air grille hinged frame fixing, that is usually a thumb screw or sliding clip.
  3. Then, you should slide the filter out carefully and vacuum off any dust, lint, grime or any other matter on the filter, outside if possible.
  4. Once you have vacuumed everything, wash the whole filter with mild detergent and warm water, soak it in a bath or a large body of water and move the filter around to dislodge anything that could be stuck in the filter. Also, you can rinse it off with a hose outside the house or do it in the shower with low-moderate pressure water.
  5. Give the filter a final rinse. You may choose to sanitize the filter with vinegar, diluted with water (50/50).
  6. After that, gently tap the filter to remove excess water and allow it to dry in a warm area. It is better to leave them outside but not under direct sun. Also, keep the filters out of windy areas and away from dogs and other animals that can damage them.
  7. Remember to check your filter condition regularly. If it is coming away from the frame, has any tears or if the material is getting thin then it is time to change the filter. You can get a made-to-measure replacement filter on request with a good air conditioning service and repairs technician if you want to.
  8. Once your filter is dry you may choose to apply an antibacterial spray to help prevent bacteria and mould build up.
  9. Slide the filter back into the hinged grille inside, swing the grille back into the ceiling recess and secure it. Remember that the filter is directional, which means that it has a right and wrong way to slide it back. Just makes sure you put it in the right way.
  10. Finally, turn the aircon on and test run the system. If it makes any whistling noise, adjust the filter so the sound disappears.  If you hear any other weird noises, turn the aircon system off and contact an expert to see where the problem may be.

Replacing air filters

How to clean wall split system filters?

Servicing filters for wall split units, box air conditioners and cassette systems is also necessary to increase the lifespan of these systems and maintain a healthy indoor environment.

What are the steps to follow?

  1. First, turn off the aircon system and open the front cover of the indoor unit.
  2. Gently slide the filters out and look for specific instructions or refer to manufacturing specifications.
  3. Vacuum off all the matter on the filters like dirt, lint, grime, dust and mould. This is best performed outside.
  4. Once you vacuum everything, wash the filters with mild detergent and warm water and soak them in water to dislodge anything that could be stuck within them. Another alternative is to rinse them with a hose or in the shower.
  5. After that, rinse the filters one more time. You can sanitize them with vinegar diluted in water as a 50/50 mix.
  6. Then, tap the filters to remove the excess water and put them to dry in a place with warm, fresh air, away from pets and wind.
  7. Remember to check filter condition. If they start coming away from the framing, have any tears, or the filter media is getting thin, then is may be time to change them. You can contact an air conditioning service and repairs company to help you replace filters.
  8. Once the filters are dry you may spray them with an antibacterial spray to prevent mould and bacteria growth.
  9. Finally, slide the filters back into the indoor air conditioner unit and turn the power back on as well as to the aircon system.
  10. Test run the system. If you hear any whistling, adjust the filters to solve the problem. However, if the noise is abnormal then the best recommendation is to call an expert to see what the issue may be.

Cleaning air conditioning filter

What to consider before performing the cleaning?

Aircon filters are delicate so you should not use abrasive cleaners. Otherwise, you may damage the nylon or similar material your air filters are made of. If this occurs, your filters will be useless so please be gentle when cleaning them.

It is also not recommended to use brushes with hard bristles because this can cause holes, reducing the filtering capacity. Also be wary of pets and other animals around that may like to nibble (or completely chew) the filter when left out to dry.

Also allow plenty of time for the filters to dry, especially if you are in a cooler climate or alternatively very humid environment. Both environments cause complete drying to take longer than it would if you were in a hot, dry climate.

How often the filters should be cleaned?

It really all depends.  It depends on the environment where you live or work; if there is a lot of pollution, if anyone smokes regularly, if there are animals present, or if the place in general has a lot of dust. If yes to one or more of these, you should clean the filters more often compared to places that don’t have as many pollutants.

It also depends on usage of the air conditioning system; if the air conditioner is used most days, if the AC is run at low temperatures, or if the aircon unit is closed up immediate after heavy use, as well as the settings and fan speeds used. If yes to any of these, more frequent aircon filter cleaning will be required.

In general, the most common recommendation it to clean your home air conditioner filters every 3-6 months, i.e. with every change of season, or every time you change the function of the aircon if it is a reverse cycle air conditioning system.

However, it should be recommended to at least check your aircon filters monthly, especially in a commercial setting. Depending on the environment and usage, cleaning may be required at the same time or can occur with the change of season or function as mentioned.

Why the aircon filters would smell bad?

Filters don’t generally smell bad; they just perform their function of filtering air and trapping dust particles in the mesh from which they are made. By doing this, filters prevent these particles from reaching the interior of the unit and therefore help prevent the aircon from getting dirty inside.

Aircon filters may start to smell bad when they become clogged and saturated. At this stage, they can no longer perform their function properly. This causes dirt to gradually pass into the indoor unit.

Dirt and matter can build up within an AC unit as well as lead to the growth of microorganisms and mould. Any of these can cause an unpleasant odour. Therefore, it is usually the interior of the air conditioner unit that smells, rather than the air filters themselves.

Dirt and matter, when combined with moisture produced by an indoor unit operating in cooling mode, can cause mould, bacteria and fungi to proliferate and may be harmful for your health. For this reason, you have to carry out regular maintenance and keep your aircon filters clean.

Air Conditioning Odor

If your air conditioner is not cooling properly after cleaning the filters you may need to consider two common situations:

  • If the equipment is old or if the installation was not done correctly, component/s may be faulty or gas may have leaked. If so, you will need to call an air conditioning contractor to investigate and solve this problem as soon as possible.
  • If you live in a place with excessive pollutants and dust, this may result in the accumulation of dirt within the indoor unit. It would also be best to have this attended to by an AC expert as soon as possible.

If you have any questions, please contact us! We would be glad to help you.