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The Ultimate Beginner's Guide To Air Conditioning Filters

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Your air conditioner sucks in air and blows it out again, over and over throughout the day. If dust and other debris is not removed from this air with each circulation, your air just grows dirtier and dirtier over time. Thankfully, this is the job of your air conditioner's filter. The filter traps debris so it does not just keep recirculating, leading to higher indoor air quality. But while the concept is simple, there's a bit more to AC filters than you might expect. Here's what you need to know.

Filters come in several sizes.

The brand does not matter so much when it comes to buying an AC filter. Brand X filters typically work fine with Brand Y AC units, and vice versa. What you need to pay attention to is the size. If your AC requires a 12" x 18" filter, a 12" x 20" won't fit! The easiest way to make sure you buy the right size is to pull your old filter out of its slot and take it with you to the hardware store. (Most hardware stores carry all different brands, styles, and sizes of AC filters -- they may take up a whole wall.)

Fiberglass filters are sufficient for many homes, but not all homes.

When you're standing in your hardware store looking at all of your filter choices, you'll notice that the majority cost just a few dollars and are made from thin layers of fiberglass. These inexpensive filters are sufficient for most homeowners. They do a good job of trapping most dust and keeping your air conditioner clean. However, you will need a more expensive, more effective style of filter if you:

  • Have pets who shed
  • Have an allergy sufferer in your home
  • Have an home that's prone to mold growth

HEPA filters work well for everyone else.

If you do fall into one of the categories listed above, then you will want to spend a few more dollars and buy a HEPA air filter.These filters have a finer weave, so they trap smaller particles like pet dander and mold spores. HEPA filters may be made from cotton; some contain some fiberglass, too. 

The most important thing is to change it often.

Regardless of what type of filter you buy, remember to change it every month when you're using your air conditioner. Otherwise, the filter will get too clogged with dirt and will no longer do its job properly.

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