Changing your air conditioner filters is a part of your routine maintenance for your HVAC system, but you first need to know where it is in your house. Once you locate it, it is easy to keep a regular schedule so that your filters are changed, and your air conditioner works without any problems.
Generally, the air conditioner filter can be in two main locations: 1) An air handler unit, a large metal box with components that move the air throughout your home. The air handler unit may be located in a basement, attic, or closet. 2) Filters can also be in one or more return vents, located in a wall, ceiling, and sometimes on the floor.
Once you know what you are looking for, it is easy to find it. Continue reading to learn how to find your air conditioner filter and why it is important to change it.
Within the Air Handler
The air conditioner filter of your central heating and cooling system can be located somewhere within the air handler unit.
The air handler is a large metal box with the necessary components to circulate the air throughout your home. You should check your attic, your basement, or sometimes even a closet in the house. Once you find it, you should look for a wide slot that is about an inch tall. There might be a slot under the air handler, or it could be to the side next to a return vent.
In our last two houses in Pasadena, California, and Magnolia, Delaware, the filter was located between the return air duct and the furnace or air handler. Both places had the air handler in the basement, as you can see in the pictures below.
You could have a different model that may require you to open or slide a service door panel to access the furnace. The filter may be located on the side or at the bottom. Be sure to power off the unit before you open any door.
In Return Vents Within Your House
Just when I thought I knew where the filter should be located, we bought our new house in Lewes, Delaware, and found out that the filters in this house were not within the air handler.
Our new house in Lewes has three filters instead of one. One in the living room, one in the master bedroom, and one on the second floor. I have learned that some houses like ours have central air returns with grilles that have a filter. See the pictures below.
How to Change the Air Conditioner Filter
Central cooling systems work by air handlers drawing in air through the return duct system. Then they blow the air through the cooling system. Afterward, once the air is cool, it goes back into the house.
Once you figure out where your filter goes, replacing it is easy, but you need to place it correctly. Most filters have an arrow stamped on its side, which indicates the direction the filter has to face. The arrow has to point to the direction of the air handler or inside the return.
What happens if the filter is backwards? While it is hard to tell, one side of the filter is more porous than the other. They designed it like this to trap pollutants more effectively while facilitating airflow through the system.
Putting the furnace filter backwards will add unnecessary stress to the air handler because of the loss of airflow.
Why Do You Have to Change the Air Conditioner Filter?
There are several different reasons why you need to change your filter. First of all, it will increase the efficiency of your air conditioner. This will help your air conditioner to perform better. But there are other important reasons.
The first reason why you should change your filter regularly is that it will improve the air quality. The filter screens out pollutants and dust, and this can benefit your entire family and your guests.
Another important reason is that changing your air conditioner filter regularly will help extend the life of your air conditioning unit. Over time, your air filter deteriorates, and when it does, it can fall apart, and the fibers and debris can get into your air conditioner system. This can lead to your air conditioner breaking.
If debris and dust gets into the moving parts of your air conditioning unit, it will cause mechanical breakdowns. Imagine what your floors would look like if you didn’t clean them for a month. This is what would happen to the air conditioner if there is no filter.
You may want to know what happens if you forget to replace your air filter. It took me 9 months to figure out that I had to change the filter in our house in Magnolia, Delaware, and this is what the filter looked like. Imagine how it would look if you forget for years.
The consensus is that you need to change this type of filter at least once every three months.