Rosie on the House: Clean, replace filters for better air quality

Clean the bathroom fan every six months.

One of the simplest tasks to keep your home and its equipment working properly is to clean the air filters. When we think of air filters, most of us generally think of the HVAC filter. While we will start with that one, there are a few more to add to the maintenance schedule.

Heating & Cooling System’s Air Filter

REEIS Air Conditioning, a Rosie-Certified Partner, recommends replacing air filters once a month throughout the year.

Filters are often located in ceilings or walls along the path of the ductwork that returns air to the air conditioning unit. Look for a removable metal cover in the ceiling, or low on a wall.

Rosie on the House: Clean, replace filters for better air quality

Because of our dusty climate, replace air filters once a month throughout the year.

1. Open the metal cover, remove the old filter, and measure it.

2. Buy a replacement filter the same size as the old one (as long as the old one fits). A good filter should run around $4.

3. There will be an arrow on the side of the filter telling you which way the airflow is supposed to go through the filter. Install the new filter according to that airflow arrow.

4. Reinstall the metal cover.

5. Remove dust bunnies from the vent with a vacuum or slightly damp cloth.

6. Dispose of the old filter.

7. Repeat the process every month because our dusty Arizona air makes filters extra-dirty. Therefore, they need to be changed more often.

8. Clean the air vents to remove lingering dust.

For a window or wall mount air conditioner:

The filter is located inside the unit.

1. Turn off the air conditioner.

2. Take the cover off of the front of the air conditioner; it may pop off, or you may need to unscrew it. The filter is behind it.

3. Remove the filter. You might be able to push it out, but some models are screwed in.

4. Most window and wall mount A/C filters are reusable. Instead of replacing the filter, you will clean it. Shake or vacuum the dust off and rinse with soapy water.

5. After the filter is completely dry, place it back into the unit.

6. Replace the front cover.

7. Wipe down the front of the unit.

Mini Split

Check the mini-split filters every two weeks and see if they need cleaning. Dirt, debris, and mold can accumulate quickly.

To clean mini-split filters, power down the entire system. Let everything cool down. When it is cool, take off the panel of the unit. Wipe away dust with a cloth.

Then remove the filter. With warm water and dish soap, clean both sides of the filter. Rinse off soap residue and put the filter in the shade to air dry. When it is completely dry, place it back in the unit.

Bathroom Fans

To keep your bathroom fans working efficiently, give it a thorough cleaning every six months. Be sure the power to the fan is off before removing the cover. Clean the cover and the fan. A dirty fan can’t clear out moisture, which eventually will lead to mold and mildew.

Dryer Filter

Always clean the lint filter between every batch of clothes. Get into the habit of removing lint from the screen, either before or after every batch. Many new dryers will automatically remind you to check the lint filter before starting up.

Vacuum Filter

If your vacuum isn’t suctioning like it used to or stinks when turned on, it’s time to clean or replace the air filter. Bagless vacuums need more frequent filter changes and cleanings. Unless the manufacturer says otherwise, replace the filters on bagless vacuums every three months.

Rosie on the House: Clean, replace filters for better air quality

Don’t just empty the dirt canister. Clean the filter, too.

Bissell notes that foam vacuum filters that can be washed should be gently cleaned by hand with warm water and a drop or two of mild detergent. Make sure the vacuum filter is completely dry before being placed back in the vacuum. If a vacuum filter is even a little damp, mold and mildew can grow and your vacuum will stink when you use it next.

Don’t just empty the dirt canister and skip the filters. Plugged filters lead to an overworked motor, which will eventually burn out. Save yourself the cost of replacing the motor (roughly $100) and clean the filter.

Instead of tapping the filter against the inside of a trash can, clean the pleated filter with a shop vacuum. Some pleated filters have a special coating that you can damage, so be gentle with the shop vacuum nozzle. Clean prefilter screens and post-filters the same way.

If it is not already in the vacuum, insert a certified True High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter to remove invisible particles and allergens. Make sure the word ‘True” is on the label.

Buy high-quality vacuum bags such as cotton-lined paper bags or synthetic cotton HEPA bags. Bag capacity matters. Higher-capacity bags capture more tiny particles.

Water Filter

Many homeowners say they can notice a change in their water’s taste if they haven’t changed the filter regularly.

For a reverse osmosis system, refer to the owner’s instruction manual. Some filters and membranes can last as long as two years, but some need replacing before that.

The same is true for refrigerator filters, but generally, most of them can last about six months. Refrigerator filters clear contaminants by forcing water through activated carbon filters. But once that carbon gets covered with contaminants, the water passes through untreated.

Filters in pitchers or carafes often need changing every two to five months.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 35 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the Rosie on the House radio program from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3) in Phoenix; KGVY 1080AM 100.7FM; 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson.