Homeowners often think that the only reason they need to be concerned about the air filter in their HVAC system is for their indoor air quality needs: to keep out allergens and other particles. But this is only part of the story.
It’s easy to assume that a dirty air filter is an issue because it keeps the indoor air dirty. Maybe this is why technicians tell you to change yours every 1–3 months? Well, not quite. In fact, you may not even be suffering from allergies or poor indoor air quality, but you’ll still need to change this air filter.
The purpose of this air filter is to protect the air conditioner from particles that can get inside, not to protect your breathable air. AC air filters certainly don’t hurt your IAQ efforts, but they don’t do a whole lot to help.
A Dirty Air Filter Will Still Hurt Your Comfort
The air filter we’re talking about is placed between the intake air and your HVAC system. So, a clogged up air filter will actually prevent air from circulating through the air ducts and the vents. Basically, you won’t have enough air to stay cool (or to stay warm, in the case of your forced-air heater). As a result, you’re going to feel less comfortable!
If you notice uneven cooling or heating throughout your living space, or if your thermostat says one temperature and you feel like it’s completely different from what it actually is, a clogged air filter may be to blame. But, as we’re about to dive into more, minor discomfort is really the least of your worries.
The Danger of a Clogged Air Filter
We probably shouldn’t say danger, but a clogged air filter will definitely have detrimental effects on your air conditioner and your overall comfort.
Your AC May Leak
The way your air conditioner functions is by absorbing heat from the air within your living space. As the refrigerant evaporates within the indoor condenser unit, the evaporator coil absorbs heat from the air blowing over the coil. However, if the air filter is too blocked up with particles and dust, then that warm air is restricted, which can cause the coil to freeze.
You should never see ice on your air conditioner. If ice is covering a coil, that coil won’t be able to absorb heat as it should, and your air conditioner won’t be able to do its job. Additionally, as that ice thaws, the water will begin dripping and leaking out of the system, which can cause AC and property damage.
You’ll See a Spike in Your Energy Bills
If an air conditioner’s filter is too blocked up, the blower fan has to run longer and harder to bring in the right amount of air to your living space. Swapping out the air filters for clean ones on a regular basis restores proper airflow through the ventilation system and the system will work more efficiently, keeping your utility bills at a level they should be at.