The Santa Rosa Insider’s Guide to Air Conditioner Filters

air conditioner Santa Rosa dirty vent, dirty filterLearn all about air conditioner filters here in Santa Rosa

Mabel has been living in her new house for the past year and noticed that the house wasn’t as cool as she thought it should be. It seemed like her air conditioner in her Santa Rosa home was working harder than it should, given our mild summers. Mabel also noticed that no matter how much she dusted, her house was always dusty. After one of our hotter dustier days, Mabel decided that she had had enough and gave us a call.

The first thing I asked Mabel was how often she had been changing the air filter. A funny look came over her face and she asked me where it was and why did it need changing? She was holding her baby when she asked this. I could see that she was thinking changing the filter was something like changing the baby. The little one would not have been comfortable if he were only changed once a year.

We went to the air vent that Mabel swept up often and I showed her how very unpleasant air filters get when they aren’t changed. I had one like it in the truck and put it in. Then Mabel and I had a discussion about air filters. I explained that if she didn’t change the filter, the air flow goes down, and the system does not perform well. Not only that, but if the filter is too dirty, it starts to become a source or air pollution itself, this being the reason she was dusting unsuccessfully.

Air conditioners for home, school and workplace have been a part of our culture since the 1950s when they became popular after WWII. Unfortunately, many people install an air filter with as little thought as purchasing a car wash sponge.

As the homeowner or renter it is your responsibility to purchase the correct and most efficient air filter for your home’s air conditioner in Santa Rosa or anywhere else you might live. If you are unsure where the filter is located, be sure and ask someone. Then you need to know that there are many sizes and kinds of air conditioner filters. When you shop for one, you have to remember the size and the rating.

MERV and M3 Rating and What They Mean to Your Air Conditioner in Santa Rosa

Microbe Efficiency Reporting Value (shortened to MERV) and M3 ( meaning Filtrate Microbe Efficiency Value) are the two efficiency standards used for measuring the efficiency of the air filter in order to protect your home from dust, microbes, pollen, spores, bacteria, viruses, and allergens. Notice the word “microbe” in each standard? The higher MERV or M3 number the greater the strength the filter has in combating all that dust, microbes, etc. You will find the rating prominently displayed on the filter package.

Your home requires protection from air pollutants that creep in naturally, are brought in by your family without knowing it, or grow in your home because of cooking, laundry, pets, and just life in general. The higher MERV (8 – 11 at least) or M3 (1050 – 1205 at minimum) air filters has the more it helps put up a defense against a clever mini-microbe getting into your home’s air conditioner in Santa Rosa and from there into your family’s lungs.

I’ve found that even these safer air filters need be replaced when dirty. At the minimum you should change your air filters every three months, according to the packages–but we suggest changing it at least once a month. I know this is confusing, but the easiest way to decide is to check it on the first day of the month. If it’s dirty, it’s time to change it. After checking for a few months you will know how often you need to put in a new one.

Another piece of information I’ve found that people should be aware of has to do with different types of air filters. As confusing as it is to remember the size of your filter and getting the right rating,  it’s also confusing to know which type to buy. Whether you are a new or seasoned homeowner, you need to know the following:

affordable heating and air, Santa Rosa CA, air filtersTypes of Air Filters

  • Cardboard Filters The cardboard air filter is one of the least expensive disposable filters you can buy. It comes in pleated or non-pleated design and it works well, although it requires replacing frequently. It will stop allergens and dust as long as you do not have inside pets increasing the hair, fur and dander load. Whether you are a young new homeowner or elder retired person, you would be better off purchasing air filters that are made of synthetics with a higher MERV count. You will always need to check cardboard type air filter regularly and change them no less than every 4 weeks. Read the instructions on the package of your cardboard filter, pleated or non-pleated. The MERV or M3 rating is paramount in any filter you purchase. The higher the rating, the more protected your family will be.
  • Non-pleated air filters Simply put, they do not have the same holding design to grab dust, dirt, allergens, microbes as the pleated design. Sometimes they are referred to as “bowling ball catchers” because they let smaller things through, especially (!) if they are smaller than bowling balls. Again, whether pleated or not, the rating for that particular filter is what should guide you. These will definitely not help if you have indoor pets.
  • Synthetic pleated air filters vs. non-pleated filters  Pleated filters are a relative newcomer to residential air conditioners in Santa Rosa. They give more free area for air passage while being tightly woven. Pleats also have the advantage of being able to hold more. If taken apart, the filter is much larger than the frame. While this is a good concept, the effect isn’t, if your vent will only accept a 1” thick filter. It works if you have a multi-inch really thick filter set-up. You can have your cake and eat it too with thick filters. You should pay attention to number of pleats per foot. The more pleats, the more filtering. It will have a higher capacity and a lower drop than other filters measuring the same but with fewer pleats per foot.
  • Reusable Air Filters Don’t use these. Period. Reusables require government EPA regulated washing devices and ways of disposing dirty water. Plus, it is difficult to reinstall a washed filter without retaining moisture that is ready to become disease-bearing fungus Petri dishes. When you read the MERV or M3 rating on reusable filters, you will see they top out at 4, while less expensive disposables range up to MERV 16. Disposable yes– reusable no.

You know that your air conditioner in Santa Rosa costs thousands of dollars. However, many new homeowners do not appreciate the great importance of the humble air conditioner filter. A good fit and high MERV rating should be your filter criteria, along with diligent monthly filter changing.

Mabel has learned her lesson. She treats her air filter as if it were her baby and she changes it regularly. When was the last time you changed yours? If you are experiencing any kind of air conditioner problem in Santa Rosa, give us a call  at Affordable Heating and Air, andwe will be out there to help. You can reach  us at 707-953-3345.

About Chris Carpenter

Chris Carpenter has owned Affordable Heating and Air for 25 years. Chris is a fully factory-trained technician with a wealth of knowledge about heating and air conditioning. He enjoys educating homeowners about the pros and cons of each systems so they can make an informed decision when addressing their needs. Chris’s son and business partner, Paul, has been working with him for the last three years and their key to success is “being professional, honest and forthright in all our dealings and treating people as they would like to be treated.” You can reach Chris by calling 707-953-3345 at Affordable Heating and Air.

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