Clearing the air

By Beth Jimmerson

When it comes to maximizing energy efficiency in our homes, we often overlook a simple yet crucial aspect—the regular changing of our air conditioning filters. Now that the summer heat is officially here, it’s especially important to pay attention to our air filters as they can make a significant difference in both energy consumption and overall indoor air quality. 

Our air conditioners work hard to keep us cool, and air filters play an important role in that. Your air conditioner works by pulling in air from the outside, cooling it, then sending it throughout the home. When it pulls in air from the outside, it can also grab outside pollutants like dust, mold and allergies that get sent through your ductwork along with the cooled air. 

This is why your filter is so important. The air filter’s job is to stop all the pollutants from reaching you while keeping your air fresh and germ free. After time, your filter gets dirty from all the pollutants it’s filtering out of the air. When this happens, you need to replace it. 

Air filters trap harmful particles and pollutants from the air and allow clean and fresh air to travel into the room. Over time, these hazardous pollutant particles can accumulate within the filters and reduce the total volume of air passing through them. Less air passing through your AC’s air filters means you would have to turn your air conditioner’s fan settings up a notch to achieve the same effect, and in some cases, even that might not work.

The result is a higher energy bill at the end of the month and degraded air conditioner efficiency. Clogged AC filters can result in energy bills rising to 15 percent higher than usual. Another drawback of a clogged AC air filter is the reintroduction of harmful particles into the air. Due to the large number of pollutants captured in the filter, when an AC reverses airflow, there is a high chance that some contaminants will make their way back into the air and result in even dirtier air than before.

This is why it is imperative to change or clean your AC filters regularly. It’s best to clean AC air filters every two weeks—roughly 200 to 250 hours of use—and get them replaced on a schedule, typically every one to three months depending on the filter type and usage.

Filters are made of a variety of materials and are rated by efficiency. What type of air filter we choose for our homes can have a huge impact on our air quality. It’s important that you get the right kind of filter for your home’s needs. The minimum efficiency reporting value goes from 1-20 and is used to rate the filters. Generally, for home central air units, you will want a filter between 5 and 12. These effectively filter mold, pet dander, household cleaning sprays, spores and more. As for the size, check what your unit needs simply by looking at the old filter. 

While disposable filters have to be replaced once a month, changing them out is easy. Just remove the dirty filter, slide the new one into position, and you’re done. They typically have higher ratings than reusable filters and are more efficient at catching and trapping debris when changed regularly. Disposable filters are also pretty inexpensive depending on the type you choose.

Reusable filters require cleaning just as often as disposable filters require replacement, but can be manually cleaned and dried at your home. While they might cost a little more upfront, they may save money in the long run since you’re not replacing them as often. If cleaned regularly, a reusable filter can last up to five years.

No matter which filter you choose, having a fresh filter in your home can make a huge difference. Replacing or cleaning your home’s filter once a month will improve your home’s indoor air quality and reduce the amount of dust that collects in your home. Plus, your air conditioner will run much more efficiently when the filter is clean and that means it uses less energy to do its job which can result in lower utility bills each month.

On average, the energy your air conditioner uses makes up about half of your energy bill each month, so spending a few dollars on a clean air conditioning filter can make a big difference on your monthly budget. It’s a mundane task, but taking the time to replace your AC filter at recommended intervals can make a significant difference in both energy consumption and overall indoor air quality. Check your air filter now, then set a reminder to check it monthly going forward.

Conway Corp’s Energy Smart program is one of the many ways we’re balancing increasing demands for electricity with our commitment to providing affordable rates to Conway residents. To learn more about the Energy Smart program or to find other ideas and tips for energy efficiency, contact Conway Corp at 501.450.6000 or visit Conway Corp customers are eligible for free residential energy audits and zero-percent interest loans for qualified energy-efficient improvements.

Beth Jimmerson
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