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What is the most common mistake homeowners make when it comes to their central AC system? Failing to change their air filters is in the top 10. If you’re leaving your filter changes for your AC technician to do during yearly maintenance, you’re wearing your system out.

Imagine you’re trying to breathe through a snorkel, but someone has put cotton balls at the end of that ball. How easy would it be to breathe? Of course, it’s harder to breathe air when even the smallest cotton ball is blocking the airflow. 

The same is true of your Miami air conditioner. If the airflow is obstructed, it’s going to have a harder time. Components like fans have to work harder to move the air around. This is why air filter changes are essential. If you don’t change them often enough, you risk damaging your system.

Understanding the Layers of an Air Filter and Sizing

The design of an air conditioner’s filter requires several layers. Most Miami AC systems use pleated or cloth filters that are made with cotton, fiberglass, polyester, or some kind of synthetic fiber. The filter layers are enclosed in a plastic frame.

As air travels through the filter, the filtering material captures large particles and traps them in the pleats or layers of filtration. The cleaned air passes through the other side to be cooled and returned to the interior rooms. The filter you choose has a MERV rating ranging from 1 to 16. Standard filters are cheaper and usually have a MERV rating of 4 or less. 

Most residential AC systems take a filter with a MERV rating of 6 to 8. The material is often pleated to capture particles better. A MERV 9 to 12 is high quality and captures tinier particles, but it also takes longer for the air to flow through them. Finally, MERV 13 to 1t6 is the best of all, but they can damage your system as they’re used more in industrial systems than you’d find in a hospital.

The filter is located within your ducts, so you need to make sure you have the right filter and fit. Air filters usually have three numbers on the side (length, height, and width). It’s important to get a filter that matches what was originally installed in your system. The wrong size can lead to improper filtration.

When a filter is too small, air slips past it and isn’t filtered. This can lead to dust and allergens returning to your rooms. It can also lead to dust building up in your ducts. If moisture mixes with the stuck-on dust, you could end up with a mildew problem.

If you choose a filter that’s too large, your AC system’s access won’t close properly. The room your system is in may end up with a lot of dust and hair, and you also have the untreated air going into that room instead of getting cooled and circulating properly.

Finally, the air filter you force in could damage your ducts. If air isn’t circulating properly, it can strain the components in your system and cause them to wear out faster.

Most residential air filters are one or two inches thick. It’s uncommon for a home AC system to need a thicker filter, but it’s not unheard of. If you can’t find the measurements printed on the filter, use a tape measure.

How Often Should You Change Your Maimi AC Filter?

When you live in Miami, you’re probably running your AC all year. Because of this, the general recommendation is to change your filter at least every 60 days. If you have pets or extra people in your home, monthly changes are recommended. It might state how often to change them in your central air system’s owner’s manual.

A good rule of thumb is to visually inspect your air filter every other week. If it’s dirty, you’ll see it. You’ll see particles on the filtration. Holding it up to the light, a lot of dust and dirt will make it hard to see any light behind the filter. If you see grime or can’t see light behind the filter, it’s time to change it.

Has there been exposure to smoke? You were cooking something on the stove, got distracted, and the item burned and filled your house with smoke. Change the filter. If there’s been a house fire or brush fire nearby, change the air filter to avoid recirculating smoke particles.

If all else fails, call your AC installer and ask for guidance. Make sure you’re not choosing an air filter that’s too restrictive, which can make your system work harder and wear it out faster. While a hospital-grade filter might appeal to you, your Miami AC may not be able to handle it.

What Other Maintenance is Important?

An air filter is an important component of a long-lasting AC system. What are the other things to keep in mind?

Once a year, have a professional Miami AC technician perform a cleaning and inspection of your central AC system. If there are developing problems, the sooner you address them, the less expensive it can be. If you put off a repair until something breaks, you inevitably end up spending more on emergency repairs. Plus, your home is going to be warm and uncomfortable until a technician can come out.

Check the coils on the interior and exterior AC components. If coils are covered in grime, clean them off. If you’re not comfortable doing this, an AC technician can do it as part of a cleaning.

Make sure you have the outdoor unit clear of any shrubs, plants, and grasses. If there are grass clippings, leaves, or twigs covering the vents, remove them to ensure proper airflow.

Keep an eye on the condition of your ducts. If you notice holes, splits, or cracks, have your ducts repaired ASAP. You don’t want to lose cooled air to the walls in your home or your attic or crawlspace. Rodents can do a lot of damage, so call an exterminator if you notice them.

Your condensate drain should allow condensation to flow freely to your yard. If you see the drain pan is overflowing, there’s a problem. Look for clogs and use a wet vac to keep water from leaking into your home and causing damage.

All Year Cooling is here to help you with your Miami central AC needs. Whether you need your system cleaned or aren’t sure how to change the filter, we can help you. Give us a call or message us through chat to arrange services.

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