A DIY hack to make your air conditioner cooler

how-to-clean-an-air-conditioner-filterAllergic to home improvement? Here’s an easy DIY chore you shouldn’t sneeze at.  It will clean your air,  increase its “coolness”, and save you buckets of money to boot.  Change your air conditioner filters!

Amman, Jordan is enjoying a mild summer, but air conditioners (AC) have been buzzing for months.  The house teen spotted a sluggishness in her bedroom unit’s performance – the conditioned air is tepid, the mechanical breeze limp. Damn, mom, another broken appliance!?

The engineer husband wearily shakes his head.  Unplugs the unit and teaches the kid some basic AC maintenance. Turns out to be embarrassingly easy.  And if an attitude-y 16 year old can do it, so can you.


ACs are simple machines, and maintenance is also basic.  (Maurice has shown how you can rejigger your units to capture precious condensate and use the water to irrigate houseplants – link here). 

The primary way to keep your AC purring like the coolest of cats is to change its filter. Every unit has a removable filter to capture airborne dirt, dust, and here in the Middle East, sand. If filter fibers clog up, air flow is minimized and the unit becomes asthmatic. A wheezing AC is inefficient, meaning you’ll run it longer and consume upwards of 10% more energy.

Here’s the fix:

– Turn off the AC.

– Find the filter:

a. Filters in window and wall-mounted units will be located near the AC front panel, near the vents. Open the panel and slide out the filter.  It can look like either of the two images above – or similar.

cleaning air conditioner filtersb. Central air filters are usually placed behind air vents running along a return air duct (scan your walls and                    ceiling for a vent panel). Carefully remove the panel to access the filter.

c. Stumped? Check the user manual or Google the make/model for manufacturer’s guidance.

cleaning air conditioner filters – Most filters are washable, and can be rinsed with plain water in a sink or tub. Not sure if yours can handle a bath? Then wipe it with a damp rag to remove surface debris. If it’s still dingy, take it to a hardware store and get a replacement.

– Know that filters vary by size, material, and performance. Each is graded on its minimum reporting value (MERV). The higher the MERV rating (a scale of 1 to 12), the more cleaning power it has. Higher ratings are better suited for air handling in medical or industrial settings, or in buildings seeking green building status. For home use, stick with filters graded around 7.

– Pop the cleaned or new filter back in the unit, replace the panels, and remember to repeat it every month that the AC is in use.

You are so cool.

Images of dirty AC filter, another dirty filter, the AC panel and clean filter all from Shutterstock

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2 thoughts on “A DIY hack to make your air conditioner cooler”

  1. Izzy says:

    Ahh thank you this is actually incredibly useful! The thing is I’m looking for an A/C unit for the office I run (basically the temperature is so up and down that we basically NEED one to just keep things acclimatised). It’s not a huge office perse but it’s also not huge. I also really don’t want to get a measly little thing that doesn’t make any difference, I’d rather just invest in a solid product. So I was wondering really what people’s preferred A/C unit is? Or if not that, which one their office uses and if it’s good or bad or not? Also where is the best place to buy A/C units? (I literally have no clue), I came across this retailer which is near to the office, has anyone used them or heard of them before? (this is them: http://www.easyairconditioning.com/). I am surprisingly (or not) not exactly an air conditioning expert so any advice or recommendations would be much appreciated!

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