Air Conditioner Filter Types
There are five main air conditioner filter types on the market today. And one of the most costly appliance investments in a home is the the central heating and air unit and this includes the filter you’re using.
Relied on throughout the year to provide much needed heat in the Fall and Winter and to take that same heat out of the air in the Summer and Spring, the air conditioner can also be one of the easiest appliances in the home that we forget to maintain.
In fact, many people never even think about air conditioner maintenance until something goes wrong with theirs.
For those who prefer taking a more proactive approach to air conditioner maintenance, the easiest thing to do is ensure your air conditioner filters get changed on a regularly scheduled basis.
While this may seem trivial, it can make a dramatic difference in the performance of your air conditioner year round. But which air filter is right for your home?
Below I explain all of the air conditioning filter types and which one you should employ in your home depending on your unique circumstances.
- Air Conditioner Filter Types
- What Is An Air Conditioner Air Filter?
- Types of Filters in Air Conditioning Systems
- Window Air Conditioner Filters
What Is An Air Conditioner Air Filter?
You central heat and air unit is a very sturdy piece of machinery, however, in some aspects it can be very sensitive.
While your outdoor air compressor can brave the forces of wind, rain, sleet, and snow, your indoor air handler is much less tolerant of the elements, dust and debris in particular.
Air conditioner air filters, also called ac filters for short, are designed to install on the various intake vents around the home that work to pull air in to be cooled down.
As the air is pulled in, the ac filter catches the dust and other particulates circulating in the air, preventing them from passing into the air conditioner unit itself.
This not only helps keep the debris from entering the unit, potentially causing mechanical problems, it also helps keep the air being cooled and released back into the home much cleaner.
Are All Air Conditioner Filters The Same?
While many people mistakenly believe that all filters are created equal, there will find themselves sorely mistaken when they attempt to purchase a new filter for their unit and are faced with the multitude of choices on the market.
Filters for air conditioners come in a variety of sizes and types and are manufactured to address a number of specific household issues.
Types of Filters in Air Conditioning Systems
Standard AC Filters
At the bottom of the food chain, there are standard ac filters. These are the most common appearance wise and are easily identified by their cardboard frames and typically blue filter material.
While standard filters are the least expensive to purchase, they typically only filter about one tenth of the particulates in the air, making them very inefficient.
They also have to be changed on a monthly basis, increasing the potential annual filter cost.
For many years, these were the filters of choice, however, as consumers demand higher levels of performance from both their air conditioners as well as their air conditioner filters, manufacturers have risen up to meet the challenge.
Pleated AC Filters
The next generation of air conditioner filters still tended to retain the signature cardboard frame, however, the filter itself resembled a thick fiber like paper that was pleated within the frame.
It was shown that by pleating the filter material, it allowed a higher percentage of particulates to be trapped, raising the average to nearly forty percent.
This was a significant performance increase over standard filters and, even though their cost was slightly higher, they also offered a longer life span over standard filters, sometimes lasting up to three months with light usage or one month with heavy usage.
Electrostatic AC Filters
For the next advancement in filter technology, consumers were presented with a range of electrostatic air conditioner filters available on the very best air conditioning units for the home.
These higher end filters relied on a form of static charge that was created by the filter itself, allowing the filter to actually attract particulates from the air, instead of just passively filtering them as they passed through.
When compared to both standard and pleated filters, electrostatic filers remove a significantly higher percentage of material from the air, often able to pull nearly ninety percent of foreign matter out of the air before it is allowed to pass into the ac unit.
For people with allergies to dust, pet dander, or other common contaminants found in the air, these filters can significantly improve the quality of the air inside, offering a tremendous health benefit as well.
In fact, many of the electrostatic filters on the market were originally marketed towards allergy sufferers.
Their cost is dramatically higher than both standard or pleated air filters, however, they can last three months with heavy usage.
HEPA AC Filters
For consumers who demand the best products money can buy, or those who simply value the quality of air in their homes and want the best air environment possible, there are HEPA filters.
High Efficiency Particulate Arresting filters, are HEPA filters for short, are the top of the line in air conditioner filter offerings. While electrostatic filters may seem as good as it gets, trapping up to ninety percent of air contaminants, studies have shown that HEPA filters can successfully remove 99.97% of air contaminants in the home.
HEPA filters are highly valued with individuals with more severe allergies than those eased by electrostatic filters. Homes with multiple pets can greatly benefit from HEPA filters as well as they are able to not only greatly eliminate the pet dander in the air, but help to control pet odors as well.
While HEPA filters are the most costly variation of air conditioner filters on the market, they are also the most effective. In addition to the health benefits that a HEPA filter provides, it can also have a lifespan of up to six months, factoring in greatly to the long term cost if filter replacement.
For the environmentally friendly consumer, there are a small selection of permanent air conditioner filters on the market. While they are referred to as permanent filters, they do require a certain level of maintenance.
Instead of replacing the filter every few months, however, you simply wash off your AC filter with a garden hose, let it dry, and then reinstall it. The cleaning process is simple and straightforward and does not require the use of any potentially environment damaging chemicals.
It also eliminates the hassle of shopping for new filters. The filters themselves can last for several years, as long as they are maintained properly on a regular basis.
They are truly as permanent as their name implies, but they do last dramatically longer than any other filter on the market.
Window Air Conditioner Filters
Nearly every consumer knows how important it is to change their air conditioner filters on a regular basis. There are several varieties of filters for central heat and air units designed to meet a range of personal needs as well as financial ones.
While some filters are designed to last up to six months, these of course being the more costly models, others require changing every month, all depending on the type and quality of filter you have installed.
The catch is that people who may not have a central system in their home or residence may not be as familiar with filter maintenance requirements as they should be.
Window air conditioner filters, for example, very rarely need replacing. They do, however, require much more frequent cleaning than a standard central unit’s filter.
Why Are Window Air Conditioner Filters Different?
The majority of filters for standard central heating and cooling systems are designed to be disposable. Since the central unit’s air handler is typically out of the way, the filters are designed to have as long a life as possible, eliminating the constant need for replacement.
With a window unit, however, the system is easily accessible and the filters are significantly smaller as compared to a standard central ac filter.
Because of this, they are made to be cleaned regularly instead of disposed of. Since the unit is much smaller in size, the filters also tend to collect dust buildup much faster than a central unit.
This is another reason they are designed to be reusable, saving a significant; amount of money in the replacement costs that would potentially be involved if they had to be changed out on a regular basis.
How Do They Work?
The majority of window unit filters look like nothing more than a thin sheet of stretchy grey foam. The filter media is designed to trap dust and other particulates in order to keep them from passing back into circulation.
The more dust and debris is allowed to collect on the filter, the poorer the quality of air will be that the unit pushes into the room. A clogged filter can also cause the unit’s efficiency to decrease, forcing the unit to run for a longer period of time to reach the desired temperature.
By keeping the filter as clean as possible, you will not only help to keep the air as clean as possible, you can also help to reduce the energy usage of the unit itself.