Change Your AC Filter or Shell Out the Big Bucks for a New System

We had a strange heatwave here a few weeks ago.  At the end of March, we hit temps in the 80s!  We had to turn on our central AC 2 months ahead of schedule and found out that there was no cold air coming from the vents.  I called our trusty HVAC handyman and he had us up and running in less than an hour.

It was getting so hot in here the baby had to take off all his clothes!  He supervised our AC guy to make sure we didn’t get ripped off.

AC was broke so baby got to wear a diaper all day

Here was his Number 1 piece of advice for keeping your AC unit working:

#1 – Do not let the air filter get clogged up.  Change it regularly and use good quality air filters.

I’m sure we have all heard, “change your filters every month” or other words of wisdom along the same lines, but HONESTLY – how many of us actually check our filters regularly?  75%? 50%? um 25%?  I had always thought the filters were in place for the breathers benefit – clean filter, clean air.  WRONG – that is one benefit, but not the prime benefit.

I’m going to attempt to explain how a central AC unit works and why it’s so important to change the filter.  I’m not an engineer nor do I have any HVAC experience.  I’m translating what my handyman, my husband, and my dad have explained to me…

The AC system basically has 3 parts:

1 – The evaporator coil/blower unit, which is generally under your house or wherever your furnace is.

2- The compressor, which is co-located in the outdoor unit with the condenser.

3- The condenser coil, which is co-located in the outdoor unit with the compressor.

Here’s the gist:

All these parts are connected to each other via copper tubing.  A refrigerant, normally freon, is pumped into this closed system as a liquid.  The liquid freon is cold and goes down the pipes from the outdoor unit to the evaporator coil.  At this point, warm air from your house is blown over this evaporator coil.  The liquid freon absorbs heat from the air and turns it into vapor inside the tubes.  That heated vapor then gets sent down another set of pipes to the compressor unit.  The compressor forces the vapor back into a liquid and gets pushed through the condenser coil where the heat is expelled and that big fan blade blows the heat out into the air.  The liquid freon is now cold again and loops back around to the evaporator under your house, etc…

My handyman said that when the air filters in your house get clogged, or if you use very cheap air filters, the evaporator coil gets covered in dust/dirt.  That directly affects how the freon is able to absorb the heat from the air.  By having a clogged filter you also affect how much air is being blown over the evaporator coil.  The less air, the less heat can be absorbed.  On top of all this, when a clogged filter doesn’t allow enough hot air to get through to the evaporator coil the freon doesn’t turn to vapor.  It just gets colder and colder until it freezes up your system.  When I say freeze, I mean literal ice coating the pipes and parts (this has happened to us).

Long story short!  Spend a few bucks on air filters and change them when they are dirty to save you thousands of dollars on a new AC unit years before its time.  How often to change the filter depends on what type of filter (a high quality filter that traps more dust will need to get changed more often), what type of dust your create in your home (how many people/pets, etc…), how often you use the AC (more in the summer than spring, etc…), and how clean you keep your home (if you dust often or very little, etc…).

Frugal Tip of the Day: Check your air filter monthly and write down the date when you change the filter.  After a year, you will notice when the filter needs to get changed once a month versus every other month, etc… Don’t use the cheapest filter you can find.  Those type let too much dust get through to clog up your system.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Name and Email Address are required fields. Your email will not be published or shared with third parties.

 Subscribe in a reader