If you want to stay comfortable and save money this summer, it’s important your HVAC system is running efficiently to cool your Clearwater and Tampa Bay area home.
Both the indoor air handler and outdoor condenser unit play an integral part in the home cooling process. But there’s one small component that consistently keeps your system running at its best—your air filter.
To make sure your AC is running at peak performance during the hottest season in Florida, we’re here to help you learn more about air filters: including how air filters work, how often you should change your filter, what type of filter you should use, and more.
Need assistance maintaining, repairing or replacing your heating and cooling system? Contact your Clearwater AC professionals at Air Care today for a free in-home written estimate.
What does an air filter do for your AC system?
Your air conditioner works hard to keep heat and humidity out of your home. Without the help of an air filter, pollutants can negatively affect your indoor air quality and air flow—making your house feel hot and muggy, especially during the summer months.
Air filters do their best to trap unwanted dust, lint, pollen, bacteria and pet dander from entering your AC system. This keeps your HVAC system and ductwork clean, ultimately resulting in a steady stream of purified indoor air in your home.
Want to see how air filters work? Watch the video below for an explanation in action:
How often should you change your AC filter?
When your indoor air isn’t flowing the way it should, the most common culprit is a dirty or clogged air filter.
You should inspect your air filter every 30 days and change it every one to three months, depending on the cleanliness of the filter and the size of your home. If you have pets, allergens or other health conditions, you may want to change your air filter more frequently to protect yourself and your family.
During a scheduled AC service appointment, our Air Care technicians will inspect your air filter and clean or replace, if needed. In between maintenance visits, you still need to check your air filter every 30 days, especially in the Florida summer months when your HVAC system is used more frequently.
Call Air Care to schedule a tune-up today.
What type of filter is best for my air conditioner?
Homeowners don’t always know where to start when selecting an air filter because there are so many options out there. While one filter may be smart for your budget, another may be better for your HVAC system, the Florida climate and you and/or your family’s health.
To choose the best air filter for your Clearwater home and AC unit, here are a few things to consider:
- Filter size: Air filters typically come in a range of standard sizes. Look at the label of your existing filter or measure the opening yourself. Most home air filters are 1” thick, but there a numerous width and height dimensions for all HVAC brands and models. When in doubt, check your owner’s manual or Google the make and model of your HVAC system for specifications.
- Material: The material of your air filter affects the price, lifespan and airflow effectiveness. See the next Q&A for details on the most common air filter materials.
- MERV rating: MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This number identifies how the filter captures airborne particles contaminants, rated on a scale of 16. Read more about MERV ratings in the coordinating Q&A below.
- Price: Depending on the filter size, material and MERV rating, the price per filter will differ—so be sure to understand the best fit for your HVAC system first. Most filters cost anywhere between $5-20 per filter.
What are the different types of air filter materials?
There are many types of air filters, but the most common are usually made of spun fiberglass material or pleated paper material enclosed in a cardboard frame.
Read the pros and cons of each air filter material in the chart below1.
|Fiberglass air filters
|· Inexpensive: You can easily find fiberglass filters for a few dollars or less.· Catch larger debris: Lint and dust are captured easily by fiberglass.
· Airflow: New fiberglass filters do not constrict airflow. However, if you don’t change your fiberglass air filter monthly, it may become clogged and impede airflow, which will create issues for your unit.
|· Frequency: Need to be replaced every 30 days.
· Quality: An especially flimsy fiberglass filter can come apart in your system, causing serious damage, as well as putting any filtered debris back into the air.
· Less filtering capability: Because these filters don’t have a lot of surface area, they don’t filter out smaller items like pollen, bacteria and viruses. This makes them a poor choice for people who suffer from Florida allergies or asthma.
· Not recyclable: Fiberglass is not a recyclable, so you’ll be sending more trash to the landfill.
|Pleated air filters||· Catch more debris: Pleated air filters have more surface area, so they capture more —and smaller—debris. Depending on the MERV rating, they may filter out pollen, pet dander, bacteria, and some viruses—a better choice for anyone with Florida allergies, asthma or similar sensitivities.
· Frequency: Pleated filters can last up to 90 days before they need to be replaced, depending on the time of year and your home environment.
· Recyclable: Pleated air filters may be recyclable in your community. Check with your Pinellas, Hillsborough or Pasco municipalities to confirm.
|· Price: Pleated air filters may cost a little more – ranging from $5 to $15 – but they are a good example of getting what you pay for.
What is a MERV rating?
A high Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, or MERV rating, reports an air filter’s ability to capture airborne particles and contaminants. Filters are rated on a scale of 1 to 16, with 1 being the least efficient to trap airborne particles and 16 being the most efficient.
It’s important to understand that the higher the MERV rating, the more costly it may be to run your air conditioning—especially during the summer months in the Clearwater and Tampa Bay area.
Instead, your goal is to achieve the right balance between air flow, filtration level and system efficiency. For this reason, we recommend choosing air filters with a MERV rating between 6 and 8 for peak AC performance.
For more details on MERV ratings, visit epa.gov or view the chart below:
|MERV Rating||Average Particle Size Efficiency in Microns|
|1-4||3.0 – 10.0 less than 20%|
|6||3.0 – 10.0 49.9%|
|8||3.0 – 10.0 84.9%|
|10||1.0 – 3.0 50% – 64.9%, 3.0 – 10.0 85% or greater|
|12||1.0 – 3.0 80% – 89.9%, 3.0 – 10.0 90% or greater|
|14||0.3 – 1.0 75% – 84%, 1.0 – 3.0 90% or greater|
|16||0.3 – 1.0 75% or greater|
Where can I buy air filters?
High Efficiency Particulate Air filters, or HEPA filters, remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria and any other airborne particles in your home.
Once you determine the right size and MERV rating of your filter, you can purchase HEPA air filters online or at your local home improvement store, including some of the following Clearwater-area locations:
- The Home Depot, 2495 Gulf to Bay Blvd, Clearwater, FL 33765
- Lowe’s Home Improvement, 2619 Gulf to Bay Blvd, Clearwater, FL 33759
- Ace Hardware Palm Harbor, 35125 US Hwy 19 N, Palm Harbor, FL 34684
How do I change out an air filter?
Changing your air filter on a regular basis can improve the air quality inside your home, apartment, condo or townhome. See steps for central AC systems and window AC units below.
Central AC System Air Filters
Don’t be intimidated by changing the air filter of your central HVAC system—it’s easy. Follow these instructions every 30 days for the best results:
- Turn off the power to your HVAC system from the thermostat
- If applicable, unhook the latch to release the air filter drawer
- Slip out the old air filter and inspect its cleanliness
- If the filter is dirty or clogged, dispose the old air filter
- Slide in the new replacement
- If applicable, close the drawer and hook the latch when finished
- In some cases, you may need a microfiber cloth or vacuum to clean excess dust and debris in or around your AC system
Window AC Unit Air Filters
If you have an indoor window AC unit, follow these steps every 30 days to clean:
- Unplug your AC unit
- Remove the front cover and clean the slats
- Take out the air filter
- Over a trash can, shake off lose dirt, dust and debris
- Wash the filter lightly with soap and water
- Rinse with clear water until it’s clean
- Air dry the filter
- Return to window AC unit when completely dry
For more information, watch the video below for a demonstration of how to replace an air filter, compliments of Home Depot.
I changed my air filter and my AC system isn’t working right. What should I do?
If you’ve changed your air filter and notice your air conditioning still isn’t running the way it should, it’s time to call our Clearwater AC professionals at Air Care to help.
Our trained AC technicians know the ins and outs of what makes your system run and will provide efficient HVAC service repairs to help extend the life of your system. In the event you need a major repair or total system replacement, we’re also here to provide recommendations (including our top AC pick: Rheem).
Call Air Care at 727-449-2699 to schedule a service appointment and ask about our bi-annual tune-up special for existing AC customers!
“I called Air Care for an AC repair this summer because my air conditioner stopped running, and when it did, I was so impressed by the technicians work that I agreed to sign up for their maintenance program. It made a lot of sense to do. The AC service was fast, professional and satisfactory to me.” – Wiifred H., Pinellas County customer
Contact Air Care today.