Cleanliness is part of any effective maintenance plan. However, it’s especially important for HVAC systems, which work tirelessly to not only cool and heat the air but filter it, too. 

As part of normal function, large amounts of dust and dirt particles, amongst others, can accumulate within HVAC filters. Over time, HVAC filtration will decrease in effectiveness, which can lead to blockages and sudden (expensive!) malfunctions. 

Even the most state of the art heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems will clog without proper cleaning. Being attentive of your HVAC filters means you avoid unnecessary system damage as well as negative health effects. 

The good news is you can easily clean or replace HVAC filters by yourself!

The Signs of HVAC Filter Contamination

How to Clean or Replace HVAC Filters - Indoor20Air20Quality1

Though HVAC filters aren’t the most complicated component in your set-up, you’ll need to periodically check them to reduce the risk of critical breakdown and associated expenses. Consistent monitoring can be all the difference between a happy HVAC and a complete disaster, so there’s really no reason not to learn a little about how your system works. 

There are some tell-tale signs of ventilation contamination, including:

  • Insufficient supply of fresh air, which will make the space feel stuffy
  • Unpleasant odor in the room or coming from the unit itself 
  • The appearance of condensation and/or mold stains
  • Weak traction in hoods caused by blockage or depressurization

If you haven’t been monitoring your HVAC system closely, you may already be in a little trouble. It may not seem significant, but the cleaning of air filters will prevent the kinds of system failures that can cost big. 

In order to guarantee normal operation, a little maintenance is needed. It’s beneficial to either clean or change filters every three months. 

How to Clean HVAC Filters

The procedure of cleaning HVAC filters is straightforward, though commercial or unconventional units may be more challenging. In any case, for a decent clean you should:

  1. Switch off the HVAC units when performing any maintenance to prevent damage or injury
  2. Clean the outdoor block filter with a garden hose to remove any dirt, grass, leaves and mud. You do not need to use high pressures as this may harm the device
  3. Open up vents and supply registers and either vacuum or wipe surfaces
  4. Locate HVAC air filters, which can be in return air ducts (metal grates) or furnace blower
  5. Remove carefully and gently wash with warm water. You may also use a vinegar-water solution
  6. Allow air filters to completely dry before reinstalling to minimize humidity and bacteria growth
  7. Reassemble and switch the HVAC unit back on 

When Should I Replace HVAC Filters?

If you see substantial wear on HVAC filters, it may be time to replace rather than clean. Replacing air filters is no harder than cleaning them, though you will need to make sure you source compatible components. You can consult the manufacturer’s manual to check which filters will work with your system. 

When you notice any of the signs of contamination we mentioned, it’s time for HVAC air filter replacement. If your air-conditioning unit is getting hotter than usual, or consuming more power, it’s probably having to work harder because of dust buildup and/or air blockage. 

Proper HVAC Cleaning and Maintenance

It’s not only air filters that need looking at. Air ducts should be cleaned every 3 to 5 years, which you can do with a vacuum cleaner. Complex areas of ventilation ducts – entrances, exits and elbows – may be more difficult to clean, but attention should still be paid.  

You don’t need professional experience to replace HVAC air filters, but if you do run into trouble with more complicated tasks, it’s always better to consult an expert. HVAC systems are designed with regular maintenance in mind, so you will extend the lifespan of your air-conditioning units by cleaning and changing out those dusty, tired filters.

Jan 14, 2022

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