Will a Dirty Filter Keep an AC From Cooling?

You are probably wondering, “will a dirty filter keep an AC from cooling?” The truth is that a dirty and clogged filter can cause many devastating problems to your air conditioner. As a result, the unit’s efficiency and effectiveness to cool will significantly drop.

When you realize that your filter is clogged, you should change it immediately. Notably, AC experts in Phoenix recommend that you replace the AC filter every 1-3 months. That way, you’ll keep the air conditioner functioning efficiently throughout the year. 

In this guide, we explore all the devastating impacts of clogged filters on your AC unit or system. Keep reading to learn the signs that show your filters need replacement.

Signs that You Should Replace Your AC Filter

An air conditioner closeup used to represent the concept of "will a dirty filter keep an AC from cooling?"

Most homeowners tend to forget changing their filters until the day the air conditioner stops working. So, how do you know that an AC filter is dirty and requires replacement?

Here are some of the signs that clues the AC unit needs a new filter.

  1. The AC Unit is Very Hot

An overheating air conditioner can be a sign of a clogged air filter. If the AC filter is dirty, the AC unit will work harder when switched on to keep your room fresh. Consequently, that will put more pressure on the air conditioner, causing it to produce a lot of heat.

When your air conditioner overheats, you’ll perform repairs more frequently, reducing the unit’s lifespan. However, replacing the AC filter every month will lessen the load and extend the AC’s durability.

  1. Electricity Bills Have Increased

If your electricity bills begin to rise sharply, it can be quite challenging to determine the root cause. However, a faulty or poorly maintained air conditioner can be the possible cause. The best way to reduce the unit’s energy consumption is by replacing filters.

It’s no secret that the cooling costs tend to increase during summer when it’s sweltering. But if your electricity bill is higher than usual (other summers), the cause could be a clogged air filter. So, you must always change it regularly to keep the electric bill low.

Read more about the average electric bill in Phoenix during summer here.

  1. The AC Unit Produces Warm Air

If your air conditioning system produces warm air instead of refreshing cold air, the main problem could be a dirty filter. When the filter gets clogged with a lot of dirt, it prevents the cold air from passing through, leading to uncomfortably warm temperatures.

However, if the air filter is new, but the air conditioner keeps producing warm air, consider hiring an expert. They will investigate the problem and provide maintenance services. However, you’ll have to pay a fee to hire an air conditioning expert.

  1. Accumulation of Dust around Air Vents

Another sign of a dirty/clogged air filter is the accumulation of dust particles on surfaces around the air vents. You can compare the surfaces with other surfaces away from the vents. If they are dustier, you need to replace the air filter before the situation worsens.

The best way to determine if dust has accumulated around the air vents is by applying the “white sheet test.” All you have to do is hang a white fabric about five inches away from the unit’s vents. If the white sheet turns gray, it’s a clear sign that the filter is dirty.

  1. Frequent Allergy Attacks

An air conditioner can affect your health negatively or positively. If your AC filter is dirty, there’s no doubt the air circulated in your house is also polluted. So, you’ll be breathing in air full of allergens, such as dust and pollen, which can cause several allergic attacks.

Ideally, an air conditioner should positively impact your health and not destroy it. If one of your household members is highly allergic to dust, you should replace the air filter more frequently. That will help to improve your home’s indoor air quality.

If you’re still experiencing allergy attacks, consider upgrading to a more effective filter.

Devastating Impacts of a Dirty Filter on Your AC System

Does a dirty air filter affect air conditioning? The AC filter plays a significant role in your HVAC system as it filters air by removing particles that shouldn’t be in your house. So, when the filter gets clogged with a lot of dust, it will affect the system’s functionality.

Here are some of the ways dirty filters can affect your air conditioner system.

  1. Increased Energy Consumption

All AC systems rely on the continuous circulation of air. So, the performance of its blower fan can impact the amount of energy it consumes. If the fan strains to pump air through the clogged filter, it consumes a lot of energy, contributing to a high electric bill.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a clogged filter can increase your energy consumption by up to 5 percent. That might even increase up to 15 percent as the filter keeps plugging. If not serviced, the AC system can eventually malfunction. 

  1. Freezes the Evaporator Coils

A clean filter allows air to circulate freely throughout the system. But if the air filter clogs, the dirt will prevent cold air from flowing through the evaporator (cooling coil). 

Since the air flowing over the coil is not enough to dissipate condensation produced during cooling, cold air will build up inside the cooling coil. As a result, the internal temperature will drop significantly, freezing up the evaporator.

The air conditioner’s ability to expel heat from the air inside your home will reduce when the evaporator freezes up. Eventually, the AC system will break down.

  1. Wears Out the AC System

A clogged air filter will quickly wear out an air conditioner system. If you fail to replace the filter immediately, it can result in additional tear and serious maintenance issues. That will negatively impact the system’s durability.

To extend your AC’s lifespan, consider replacing the clogged air filter with a new one. Otherwise, you’ll end up spending a lot of money to repair the unit. A clean new filter will prevent dirt and dust from building up in the conditioner’s internal components.

  1. Contributes to Furnace Failure

If your home has an HVAC system, dirty air filters can cause the furnace to stop heating effectively. The dirt and dust accumulated at the furnace’s air filter will restrict air from flowing through, resulting in the buildup of heat in the heat exchanger.

When the heat in the exchanger is high, the burner will stop heating, and only resume when the exchanger cools. If you don’t replace the air filter immediately, the problem will keep recurring, and the furnace will not generate enough heat. 

  1. Reduces the System’s Efficiency

If there’s excess dirt on the air filter, the air conditioner will strain to cool the entire room or house. Consequently, the system’s efficiency will reduce and can even stop working if you don’t replace the filter. Besides, it will consume a lot of power to cool the house.

How to Maintain Your AC Filter

Can dirty air filters stop an AC from working? The answer is yes. Thankfully, there are many ways to keep your air conditioner working efficiently for a longer time. All you need to do is clean or replace the filter regularly, depending on the type of filter.

Cleaning a Reusable/Washable Air Filter

If your air conditioner uses a reusable air filter, you don’t have to buy a new filter every time you maintain the AC. All you should do is wash it at least once every month. While the reusable filters tend to be more costly than the disposable ones, they last longer.

To clean the reusable air filter, you should safely remove the filter from the AC unit and rinse it in a tub or sink with warm water. You can use a mild detergent and a gentle brush to remove all the sticky particles on the filter. 

After you’ve washed the air filter, rinse it with clean, warm water and shake it to drain excess water trapped in the filter. Leave the filter to air dry before returning it to the AC.

Don’t put back the filter into the air conditioner when it’s still wet. Otherwise, it can result in ice formation or other serious issues that can affect the unit’s performance. 

Also, you should not wipe the filter in an attempt to dry it. If you do so, the chances are high that you might damage the filter’s delicate surface.

Replacing a Disposable Air Filter

If your air conditioner uses a disposable filter, change it regularly using a replacement explicitly designed for the system. You can order it directly from the manufacturer or a local authorized dealer. Notably, some hardware stores also sell the filters.

Generally, we recommend that you replace the disposable filter every month. However, the replacement frequency also depends on the type and quality of the filter used. All advanced disposable filters tend to last longer than ordinary ones.

Final Words

Will a dirty filter keep AC from cooling? Yes – that’s why you should never let your AC run without an air filter. Otherwise, it will allow all the dust and debris to pass through and clog the internal components of the AC system.

Whether you own a reusable or disposable air filter, you should clean or replace it every 1-3 months. But if maintaining the air conditioner seems challenging, AC experts in Phoenix can help you. Contact us to learn more.

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