How to Install an Air Conditioner Filter

What You'll Need
A new air conditioner filter
Possibly, a roll of duct tape

Sooner or later, you’ll need to change your air conditioner filter. The air conditioner filter’s function is to strain out all the dirt in the air. Eventually, however, dirt builds up to a point where the unit is nearly ineffective. Below are steps that describe how to locate the old air conditioner filter, secure the access panel, remove the access panel and install a new air conditioner filter. In most cases, finding this filter is relatively intuitive. Nevertheless, these instructions will also help you find the filter, if for some manufacturing quirk it is not where you might expect it to be.

If you have an extremely effective filtration system, you will likely be required to switch out your filter monthly. This is because the best filters gather up a whole lot more dirt than do the less efficient ones.

Step 1: Find Where the Filter is Installed

Air conditioner filters are usually attached inside the air handler, which is behind a thin access panel.

Step 2: Secure Access Panel

Next, you’ll want to secure the access panel in place utilizing sliding clips, which keep the panel attached to the air handler housing, thumb screws, sheet metal screws or in back of the hinged access panels.

Step 3: Take off Access Panel

Now it’s time to take of the access panel and slip the coated air filter from the unit and put in the new one. However, be aware that it is sometimes tough to extract the filter, as there is little space to insert your fingers and grasp the filter. One possible solution to this issue involves applying a loop of duct tape to the outside edges of the filter before you put it in. Such a tape loop then functions as a handle for you to grip so you can extract the filter when you need to replace it or examine it.

Step 4: What to Do if You Cannot Locate the Air Conditioner Filter

It’s possible that you may not be able to locate the air conditioner filter within the air handler. If so, it may have been configured inside the return duct of the unit. If this is the configuration, the air conditioner filter—unfortunately—may well be just about anywhere. To find it, search for thin sheet metal panels in the return duct that might be hung or slid into a track. It is there that you might locate your air conditioner filter.

By following these four easy steps, you should be successful in changing out an old and dirty air conditioner filter for a new one. Whether you need to change your filter monthly or less often than that, it’s always a good idea to inspect it at least monthly. You may also consider writing down the date that you change your filters and monitor filter-changing this pattern for a year. That way, you’ll get a good handle on how often the filter will need to be changed from there on.