During the heat of the summer, you know you can rely on your air conditioner to keep your home cool. But this summer, during the height of the pandemic, you wanted more than just a cool home—you also wanted a clean home. Does your air conditioner help clean the air? Yes, but how?
How Air Conditioners Work
Technically, your air conditioner is only designed to keep your home cool, and it does this through a cyclical process that occurs between your indoor and outdoor units:
- Cooling Your Home: The cooling fluid that makes the air in your home feel cold moves from the condenser, located in your outside unit, to the evaporator, located in your inside unit.
- Dispersing the Air: The evaporator then evaporates that cooling fluid into a gas. At the same time the cool air is pushed into your home, warm air is sucked out through your indoor unit.
- Moving Outside: The warm air is moved back to the outside unit, where it is cooled and the process begins over again.
Your air conditioner works hard to keep the heat out, but it won’t keep pollutants and debris out of the air—at least, not without the help of a filter.
How Air Conditioners Purify Indoor Air
Before air is dispersed into your home, it passes through an air filter, which pulls out particles such as dirt, dust, bacteria, pet hair, and human hair. The air filter prevents this debris from entering your home, and from being breathed in by you and your family.
Some air filters sift more debris out of the air than others. You can determine the efficiency of the filter by its minimum efficiency reporting value, or the MERV scale. The MERV scale ranges from 1 to 20, with higher numbers indicating a more efficient filter. For your home or business, it’s recommended you use filters ranked between 8 and 13. At an 8, your filter will remove pollen, mold, dust, dirt and hair. At a 13, it will remove all of that as well as bacteria and virus particles. The most efficient filter is a HEPA filter, which will filter out 99.7% of particles in the air.
Caring for Air Conditioner Filters
Your air filters will get dirty over time, so you should replace them every two months to keep your air conditioner running efficiently. If you have a non-removable filter, you should wash it gently with a damp cloth while the air conditioner is turned off. Let the filter dry completely before turning the air conditioner back on.
Still worried about your indoor air quality? Here are a few other actions you can take to improve it:
- Open the Windows: Let some fresh air in to clear some of the recycled air out.
- Vacuum Often: Run the vacuum at least once a week to suck up debris that could end up in the air.
- Use an Air Purifier: If you have bad allergies, an air purifier with a HEPA filter can also help to improve air quality, particularly if there’s an area of your home that has poor ventilation.
As you can see, the air conditioner itself won’t clean the air, but the air filter certainly can. Air conditioners are an essential part of our everyday lives, which means that HVAC technicians are essential workers. If this seems like the career path for you, Porter and Chester Institute can provide you with the hands-on HVACR training you’ll need to succeed in the field. We have campuses in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Request more information today.