How to Replace a Home Air Conditioning Filter

A detailed image of a dirty air filter.

The air conditioner is a vital appliance in many households, especially during the summer months. Without it, you'd be forced to face the sweltering heat, leading to uncomfortable days and sleepless nights. With that being said, we know you're looking to keep your AC unit in tip-top shape. Here, we discuss why changing an AC filter does just that and how to do it on your unit.

Why Should You Change Your AC Filter?

There are a range of reasons to change your filter regularly. The first is that it extends the life of your system, saving you a great deal of money—replacing an AC unit is certainly not cheap! Routine replacement of the filter also make your system more efficient. A dirty filter means that your AC will have to work that much harder to effectively cool your house. Don’t let that extra energy go to waste. Provide your system with a clean and crisp filter.

Changing your filter out regularly also ensures healthier air quality in your home. This is especially important for those who suffer from asthma or for households that have pets present. Pet dander can quickly clog an air filter, so keep that in mind if you have cats or dogs.

How Often Should You Change Your AC Filter?

It’s recommended that you change your AC’s filter once a month when it's getting regular use, however, you can probably get away with changing it quarterly every three months if you use it year-round.

How to Change the Filter on a Central Unit

A man removing an air conditioner filter.

Let’s get down to business! Follow these simple steps to change your air conditioning filter whenever it’s needed.

Step 1 - Shut off the System

Cut off the power to your system completely before beginning the replacement process. This is necessary as a safety precaution and failing to do so could result in you touching live voltage. Turning off the power is also important to the health of your equipment, as dust and debris can easily get sucked into the unit during the cleaning process.

Step 2 - Remove the Old Filter

This is an astoundingly simple step. Just slide the filter out of the slot and that’s all there is to it!

Step 3 - Check the Filter’s Condition

A woman inspecting an air conditioner filter.

Once the filter has been removed, evaluate its overall condition. Check how dirty and clogged it looks by holding it up to the light. If very little light makes it through the filter that way, it needs to be replaced.

Step 4 - Insert the New Filter

Now, put the new filter into your system. Ensure you are doing it correctly by locating the arrow on the filter’s frame, which indicates what direction the air should flow through the filter. This will always be away from the return air duct and towards the air handler mechanism. Thus, when you place the filter back into its intended spot, point the arrow away from the return and towards the air handler.

It’s as easy as that! These simple steps will increase the lifespan of your unit and will provide healthier and cleaner air in your home.

How to Change the Filter on Window Units

A brick apartment with a window air conditioning unit.

Now that we’ve gone through how to change filters on a central AC unit, let’s discuss how to do it on window units.

Step 1 - Turn the Unit Off

Much like with a central unit, you’ll want to disconnect power before you begin the process of replacing the filter.

Step 2 - Remove the Cover

Carefully remove the cover off the front of the AC unit. While you may be able to pop it off, you also may need to unscrew it. If you’re unsure about the best method, check the owner’s manual.

Step 3 - Locate and Remove the Filter

The filters in newer window models can usually be pushed or pulled out, but older units typically require a screwdriver to remove them.

Step 4 - Clean or Replace the Filter

On most window units, filters are reusable. Clean the filter by shaking it off and vacuuming any remaining dust. Rinse the filter with soapy water and let it dry completely before replacing it. If your filter is disposable, place a new one into your unit.

Step 5 - Replace the Cover

After the filter has been reinstalled, pop or screw the cover back onto the unit and it will be safe to turn back on and use.