Common AC Maintenance Questions

A Guide to Avoiding AC and Furnace Maintenance Missteps

AC Common Maintenance Questions

It happens to all of us: we move into our first place and realize there's more to adulting than buying our own groceries. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer or renting your first apartment, there's much to learn about maintaining your own household – not the least of which is AC maintenance. We're here to help by tackling some of the HVAC maintenance questions you might have.

Residential HVAC Questions

First, let's answer the big one: is an AC filter the same thing as a furnace filter? The answer is yes. It can be confusing when you do an internet search for one and the other pops up as an option, so it helps to know that they're basically interchangeable. The more important things to search for are the size you need and the MERV rating that will work best for your lifestyle. Once you figure out those basics, you can move on to the more in-depth questions about AC maintenance.

Is there a wrong way to put in an air filter?

Yes, there is definitely a wrong way to insert your air filter. On the side of your filter, you'll notice at least one arrow, possibly more – all pointing in the same direction. You'll want to make sure those arrows are pointing into the duct. For easy step-by-step instructions on changing your air filter, be sure to check out this Helpful Tip.

What happens if the air filter is backward?

Inserting your air filter facing the wrong direction can cause a couple of problems for your system.

  • The filter will have a difficult time doing its job. Air is meant to flow through the filter in a specific direction in order to best capture the dust and other pollutants that could clog your system.
  • The filter may actually impede the flow of air into your system, making it work harder to circulate the air in your home – possibly leading to higher utility bills and even wearing out your unit faster.

Can I run the AC without a filter?

Technically, you can run your air conditioner or furnace without an air filter, but it's a bad idea. The filter's purpose is to remove dirt, dust, and other contaminants from the air as it moves toward the unit. If there is no filtration, those things can build up in your system and cause big problems, including shortening the life of the unit.

What happens if you don't clean an air filter?

That's kind of a loaded question. If you're using a washable filter, you must clean it regularly. How often will depend on your household and whether you have many people and pets adding to the dust and debris the filter captures. If you're using a disposable filter, you don't have to clean it. You just need to replace it every 30-90 days – again, how often depends on your household and the efficiency (MERV rating) of the filter.

Can you put a wet filter in your air conditioner?

So, you have a washable filter, and you just cleaned it? Now what? Wait for it to dry completely before you put it back in its place. You may be tempted to cut corners or be in a hurry but putting a wet filter back can lead to mold growth in the filter. Obviously, mold is not something you want circulating throughout your home. It's safer to wait until the filter is completely dry.

Can a dirty filter make your AC not work?

Whether you have an air conditioner or a furnace, replacing your filter regularly is one of the most important things you can do to keep your system running efficiently. If you run your air conditioner with a dirty air filter, the coils in it could become frozen, causing the system to run for longer periods of time and encouraging mold growth. Not changing the air filter for an extended period could decrease the life of your unit by up to half! Why risk it? Set yourself up for success by having your favorite filters on-hand and ready to go when it's time to replace a dirty one.

These are just a handful of common HVAC questions about maintenance, and you may have more. We've probably answered your questions and more in our Helpful Tips section. Check it out to learn all you can about keeping your air conditioner or furnace in top condition, mitigating common allergies, and keeping the air you breathe at home clean and healthy.