The Importance of a Clean Filter

We never want to take care of our filters. It’s just a fact of life that it’s annoying. Every two weeks the air conditioner in the window wants it’s filter washed. Every month we’re supposed to put a new, disposable filter in the big cooling system. Why can’t we squeeze out just a little more life? Another month? Another two weeks? It won’t hurt, right?

Ha. Ha.

WRONG.

Trouble in the Air

So, our filters serve a couple of fundamental purposes depending on what kind of facility we’re in, the hardware present, and just how paranoid we have to be about airborne menaces. We’re using them to remove everything from pollen to pollutants from the air. In some settings, they’re essential for stopping the spread of mold in our air ducts. In hospitals, heavy-duty filters catch viruses and bacteria, while nuclear options like UV Light blast everything else that gets through.

If we removed all these filters entirely, your office would be unbearable. You’d have to deal with the assault of pollen and allergens. You’d have mold growing in the ductwork, triggering further allergies, presenting health hazards, and making the office smell gross. In the city, you’d have to deal with smoggy fumes too. There’d be nothing to keep out the lingering smoke from a passing big rig or the carcinogenic emissions of certain factories.

So, a filter… We’ll just put in a filter. That fixes it. One filter…

Well, the filter is going to clog up fairly fast. It is an especially fast process in the summer when your AC is running around the clock. Good filters that catch all the dangerous stuff need to be inspected monthly and replaced as they fill up. More air, is more particulates, is faster clogging. Once a filter is clogged, it is essentially useless.

Trouble in the System

Your used filter is a hive for microscopic villainy and outright sabotage. The dirt coating it will essentially prevent air from passing through the filter altogether. This is going to be disasterous for your electric bill and the lifetime of your cooling hardware. Second, all that mass, some of it biomatter, some of it awful chemicals, can start to stink. Third, it’s going to cause nasty, unfiltered air to get in anyway. Let’s take a look at these problems one by one.

The blocked airflow is going to force your equipment to run in weird ways. When the air can’t flow, it’s going to trap cold air in the ducts and around the coils. The compressor kicks on based on the demands of the thermostat and the temperature of the coils. There is a certain threshold for how warm the coils need to be before the compressor will kick on. The trapped air will cause a mis-reading. The system will turn on briefly and kick off before the ideal cycle has run and reached the ideal temperature. As a result, instead of one cooling cycle every hour, it could perhaps be every fifteen minutes. This is problematic because the roughest phase of compressor operation is start up. Once it’s got some momentum behind it, it’s smooth sailing.

The additional air pressure in the system is also going to cause your fan motors to be running harder. It’s not a lot harder, but it is measurable. In order to get the same effective airflow as in an ideal system, they may run at relatively 110%. They’ll be dedicating more power to torque and never quite reach the “cruising” speed where it only needs a little energy to overcome friction and maintain it’s speed. On top of that, we have all the dirty air. The blower wheels and fans are going to take more of a beating. Small things in the air rubbing against them, tiny pieces of metal particulates and all will shorten their life spans. The effects aren’t visible in hours, but over the course of weeks and months, it will take its toll.

Finally, this all attacks your bills. You’re going to see more power draw for the compressor to be in it’s start up state more often. You’re going to see more power draw for the fans to cope with the greater air pressure. You’re going to end up paying more for maintenance and operation because of these inefficiencies. It’s small things, but they add up overtime.

Second… the stink. This is one of the harder side effects to tolerate. Once the filter’s reached capacity, dirt builds up loosely on its surface. The dirt is eventually blown off and around the filter. Nasty stuff is going to get into your office. In the right circumstances, some surface rot can set in. Mold can start growing on the filter. Tiny bits of bacteria wage a microscopic war and die, releasing an unbearable stench into the office. If you’ve got pets, just imagine wet dog fur stuck against the filter. It happens and it’s a problem.

Finally, the filter will force dirt and bacteria to come out at other parts of the system. The pressure increase in the ventilation system will cause every leaky seam and gap to become a geyser of foul air. It’ll be just like you didn’t have a filter at all. Bad air will go everywhere. You won’t be cooling the right parts of your building with the proper airflow. You’ll end up promoting mold growth in the ducts, which is going to be expensive to remedy.

 

The Simple Solution

I know it’s a pain to clean or replace your filters but they’re there for a reason. Big companies don’t make a ton of money on filters. They’re made of paper and plastic. They are more cumbersome to ship relative to their cost. If we could do away with filters, they’d be gone in a New York minute for some kind of fancy laser-filter that we can sell you a little CO2 canister for instead of these bulky monsters. Just check your filters once a month, or sooner if the manufacturer or environment requires it. Replace them as they age.

At Procure Inc. we advise having a small on-site stock of filters if your unit uses a disposable filter. We and other retailers can offer you a better rate on 4-5 filters than we can on just one filter. You know you’re going to use the filters, ideally in both your heating and cooling system so you only need one type of filter. If you have the filters in the closet down the hall, you can quickly peak into your system, see a bad filter, replace it in five minutes, and go back about your day. In 4-6 months you’ll order another batch of filters with a nice little discount and your office workers will thank you for it. No more dirty air.

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