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Can Dirty Air Conditioner Filters Make You Sick?

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Are you sneezing, coughing, or feeling stuffy at home? It might not be just the flu season. Did you know that a dirty air conditioner filter in your home’s air conditioning system can sometimes be the culprit?

Here we’ll explore the importance of clean air filters and air conditioner maintenance, to ensure a healthy environment for you and your family. You’ll also learn when it’s time to swap out a filter in your air conditioner.

To make sure your air conditioning system is running clean and efficiently, book an air conditioner tune-up with Action Furnace. And don’t worry, we’ll leave all the air filters you’ll need for the year ahead.

The Importance of Clean Air Filters

On average, Canadians spend 90% of their time indoors. So the air quality within your home is an important concern. The easiest way to ensure the air circulating in your space is healthy is with a clean air filter.

Air filters capture impurities as air enters your cooling system, preventing dirty air from circulating. But when filters become too clogged, the dirt, dust, and allergens have nowhere to go, lowering the quality of your air. A clean air filter at the source of your home’s cool air supply is a great way to reduce allergens inside.

How Does a Filter Get Dirty?

Air filters get clogged if they are left unchanged for long periods. Small particles and allergens eventually build up, resulting in less space for air to move through. Common contaminants that can get stuck in your filters include:

  • Dust
  • Dirt
  • Pollen
  • Pet hair & dander
  • Smoke & other fumes
  • Bacteria & viruses
  • Mould spores

When these contaminants are mixed with the stagnant water in your AC unit, mould and fungus growth can circulate throughout your home.

Dirty Air Condition Filters should be changed

Side Effects of a Dirty Air Filter

Changing a filter is one of those maintenance duties that’s easy to forget. Yet, the effects of a dirty air filter are noticed almost immediately. Poor air quality can affect you and your family in the following ways:

  • Eye dryness
  • Nose, throat or skin irritation
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Allergies
  • Sinus congestion
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Prolonged exposure to poor air quality in your home has also been linked to pneumonia and lung disease later in life.

A clogged air filter increases your risk of these symptoms because it’s unable to trap impurities before air blows through your home’s vents. This contaminated air may be recycled back into your home, causing you to be exposed to unwelcome particles day in and day out.

HVAC Air Filters 101

Now that we know the negative effects poor air quality can have on our health, what can we do to improve the air flowing through our homes?

How Often Should I Replace My AC Filter?

It’s tough to know how often you should be replacing your air filter before it becomes too late. A good rule of thumb is that it should be changed every 90 days to maintain good indoor air quality. However, if you are running your AC unit for long periods, or if there are a lot of people or pets in the home, you may be changing your filter as often as every 30 days.

Air filters are inexpensive and can be found at your favourite home improvement store. Or you can get a free year’s supply when you sign up for the annual WOW! Tune-Up as part of Action Furnace’s Comfort Club membership.

What Type of Filter Do I Need?

If you have a central AC system in your home, there are lots of different filters on the market. Choosing the best one for your cooling system depends on a few things. Ask yourself these questions before making a decision:

  • What model and size of furnace do you have?
  • What type of allergies and air sensitivities do you and your family have?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • Are there other factors that make your home’s air supply especially dusty or dirty? (a renovation, for instance)
  • What is your air filter budget?

Our HVAC service technicians at Action Furnace are more than happy to discuss filter options and make recommendations based on your home’s size and your lifestyle requirements.

Clean, new air filter

What’s a MERV Rating?

A MERV rating is a score given by industry experts to describe how well an air filter works. The minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) goes from 1-20, with a high score meaning that a filter will collect more particles. The highest-rated filters can prevent the smallest-sized particles from passing through.

Depending on your health concerns and the starting quality of your home’s air intake, highly-rated filters may be worth the extra money. Our AC maintenance experts can evaluate your home’s air quality and recommend the right MERV rating for your filters.

Common Types of AC Filter

The right air conditioner filter is really about you and your family’s needs when it comes to air supply. People who are prone to illness from airborne particles may want to invest in filters that prevent more particles from dispersing.

Here are some of the most common types of filters used in air conditioning:

  • Disposable Fibreglass: these are the most affordable but come with a low MERV rating. Good for blocking large particles and debris.
  • Disposable Pleated: the most common type of filter. They have a MERV rating usually between 5-15. The pleats provide more filter surface area.
  • Permanent Reusable: a type of filter that can be washed and reused. They are more expensive and require regular cleaning but can last up to 5 years.
  • HEPA Filters: these types of filters are the most efficient at trapping particles but are not available for all residential HVAC systems.

How to Breathe Cleaner at Home

A dirty filter for your home’s cooling system may not be the reason you’re getting sick. But it certainly won’t help! Making sure your air quality is its cleanest requires a little bit of AC maintenance and some occasional professional help.

Get an Air Conditioner Tune-Up

Action Furnace’s air conditioner technicians are highly trained and qualified to ensure you get the best performance for your home cooling system. But along with making your machine run better, they can monitor air quality and make sure your filters are working to keep you healthy.

An Air Conditioner Tune-Up should be done once a year by a professional. This service includes:

  • Complete multi-point inspection (this includes your filters!).
  • A year’s supply of AC filters.
  • Coolant level checks and top-ups.
  • Compressor fan checks and calibration.
  • Parts lubrication.
  • Output baseline to ensure your air conditioner continues to run efficiently throughout its lifespan.

Duct Cleaning

You can also improve your indoor air quality with an annual duct cleaning from Action Furnace. Duct cleaning minimizes the potential for dust and allergens to be picked up and circulated throughout your home. MItes and allergens that enter your home through open doors and windows can collect in ducts and HVAC airways.

Action Furnace technicians will clean all the vents and passageways in your home using compressed air and a powerful vacuum. This is the most effective way to clear your ducts from contaminants and blockages.

Call us today to schedule your duct cleaning with Action Furnace.

Filter Out Air Quality Concerns

The warm weather will be here before you know it. Give yourself the peace of mind of knowing your air conditioner will be running in tip-top shape with the Comfort Club Membership from Action Furnace.

You’ll receive front-of-the-line priority air conditioner service, discounts on future repairs, and the comfort of knowing Action Furnace is only a phone call away, 24 hours a day.

We hope that learning about the importance of filters in your home’s air conditioner has made you breathe a bit easier. If you have any questions about your AC unit or indoor air quality, give us a call, we will be happy to assist you.

We wish you cool, clean, and fresh air in the coming months.

Written by Ryan Tutak

Ryan is considered one of Calgary's most knowledgeable residential HVAC specialists. Working in the industry for over 12 years, he's helped thousands of homeowners with their heating and cooling systems. Outside of running Calgary's most reputable HVAC business, you can find him on the Golf course practicing his short game or traveling with his family. His main goal is to create a positive collaborative culture, one in which his employees are excited to come in and are motivated to work hard. He spends the majority of his day working directly with Home Comfort Advisors, Service and Maintenance Technicians, and Customer Service Representatives ensuring they are fully prepared to lead the Home Service Industry in Customer Service.

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