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Practical Sustainability: Clean Your Filters Before You Use the A/C

There is evidence everywhere around us that spring has sprung.  Flowers are blooming, the trees are in full leaf, and my asparagus patch is almost finished for the season.  And…it’s been warm enough on a couple of days already that we’ve started to use our air conditioning.

And this reminds me that it’s time to clean my filters.  Clogged filters can lead to higher energy bills, excess strain on air conditioners and other appliances that require air filtration, and a drop in indoor air quality.

So here’s my mea culpa.  I am guilty of allowing filters all over my home to get unbelievably nasty.  And that’s why this month’s Practical Sustainability column is about spring cleaning…of all of the filters in my home.

I started with the window air conditioner from my home office, whose filter was almost completely clogged.

My home office window air conditioner filter before...

My home office window air conditioner filter before...

...and after.

...and after.

And then I moved on to my daughter's through-wall air conditioning unit that contains two side by side filters.  I cleaned the one on the left.  Before I did so, it looked just like the one on the right.

Two filters from my daughter's through-wall air conditioner - one before and one after cleaning

Two filters from my daughter's through-wall air conditioner - one before and one after cleaning

And this is what my refrigerator coils looked like.  Not so bad, since I had a service call a couple of months ago and the serviceman vacuumed the condenser area. 

The refrigerator condenser fins before...

The refrigerator condenser fins before...

But the fan side was still pretty dirty and the coils definitely needed some vacuuming.  The serviceman warned me to turn the refrigerator off before cleaning, and to be careful not to crush the condenser fins while cleaning them.  Here it is after a careful vacuuming with the dusting attachment of my vacuum.

...and after cleaning

...and after cleaning

Most of our apartment is served by a central air conditioning system, whose washable filters are located near the two air handlers.  I replaced those as well.  And cleaned the dishwasher-safe baffle filters of my range hood.  I replaced the filter on our water jug.  I even cleaned the filter on the back of our hair dryer to make sure it was running smoothly.  And lastly, I replaced the vacuum cleaner’s filter! 

The best part of this month’s Practical Sustainability activities?  It cost me nothing and took only a few minutes of my time.  The LEED green building program recommends replacing heating system and air conditioner filters every 3 – 12 months (and according to manufacturer instructions). 

So what are you waiting for?  Look around your home for everything that has a filter.  And then go clean it!  You’ll breathe easier.  Your appliances will thank you.  And your energy bill will reflect the effort.

Happy cleaning!

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