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Tips for Improving Air Quality in Your Home

Does an Air Conditioner Improve Air Quality?

Many people wonder if air conditioners filter air and if their AC improves air quality. It’s a good question, but it is not the primary function of an AC unit. An air conditioner does not enhance air quality on its own; however, AC units do filter air. As air is recycled through the unit, it passes through a filter, which can remove certain irritants, allergens, and contaminants.

There are things you can do to improve the indoor air quality beyond a standard AC filter. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, source control is the most effective and cost-efficient way to improve indoor air quality (IAQ). Increasing ventilation when outdoor air is safe and investing in an air cleaner are also ways to improve IAQ. Finally, making sure that your air conditioner is well-maintained and cleaned, replacing it when necessary, and investing in reliable air filtration systems can also improve IAQ in your home.

What’s in Your Home’s Air?

The air in your home can contain many different particles, pollutants, and allergens. They are produced by activities and items inside the home or are brought in from outdoors. Your home’s air could include the following:

Smoke

Smoke from outdoor air, cooking, or candles can be toxic. If there is a smoker in your home, this will cause second-hand smoke that can be deadly to the people with whom you live.

Pollutants

Pollutants include household cleaners and chemicals, residual fumes from paint and other house project materials, and off-gases from new furniture or carpet.

Allergens

There are many different things found in the home that can cause allergies, including outdoor pollen, insects/bugs, mold, fungi, pet hair, and pet dander.

Dust

Dust and the dust mites that feast on it can irritate your senses and cause respiratory problems and distress.

Viruses and Bacteria

The indoor air you breathe can contain a number of live viruses and bacteria.

Do Air Conditioners Clean the Air? Five FAQs

With all of these unwanted pollutants, allergens, and more, you probably wonder, “Does an air conditioner clean the air? Does an air conditioner purify the air?” The short answer is not entirely. Most important is knowing what your air conditioner can or cannot do and what indoor air quality products are available to eliminate unwanted contaminants. Below are some common questions surrounding ACs and improving air quality.

Do window air conditioners filter smoke?

Generally, window AC units do not filter smoke from the outside. However, you can decrease the risks of smoky air by closing the outdoor air damper and ensuring the seal between the window and the unit is as tight as possible. Window AC units are a better option than evaporative coolers and portable air conditioners during wildfire season. If you are looking to upgrade your AC system or install a new one, research the best options for your home.

Does my air conditioner purify air?

You may wonder if air conditioners purify the air, but they do not. An air conditioner’s primary goal is to provide cool air to a space. It does so by using recycled air from your home and forcing it over a cooling coil to cool the air. The air passes through a filter, and that filter is designed to catch certain pollutants and allergens. However, it does not purify or clean the air.

Do air conditioners filter pollution?

Air conditioners have a filter than can help trap and remove certain pollutants from being recycled back into your house. The types of pollutants filtered depend on the filter you have installed and are discussed more in depth in the next section.

Does air conditioning clean air of smoke?

Air conditioning does not clean the air of smoke. However, you can take steps during wildfire season to better protect yourself from smoke, including purchasing a high-efficiency HVAC filter rated MERV 13 when possible and using a portable air cleaner. There are also steps you can take to help keep smoke out.

Does my AC clean air from bacteria and viruses?

AC filters with a MERV 13 rating can trap bacteria and help reduce airborne contaminants, including viruses. The AC unit does not kill contaminants and instead traps them in the filtration system. It is essential to replace your filter in your HVAC system and get regular tune-ups to ensure maximum efficiency and efficacy.

Best Air Conditioner Filters for Improving Air Quality

If you are interested in improving your indoor air quality with your air conditioning system, you can find a filter compatible with your AC unit and designed to filter out specific contaminants that irritate you and your family members. Each air conditioner has a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, or MERV, rating. Typical residential filters have a rating of MERV 8 through MERV 13, though MERV ratings from 13 to 16 are often available to the general public for Residential and commercial use. In this way, air conditioners filter air. As long as your system can handle the filter you choose, you can target the pollutants that bother you and install a filter to trap the unwanted contaminants.

MERV 8

MERV 8-rated filters can catch mold spores, dust mites, carpet fibers, animal dander, and fine particles like hairspray. They are the most recommended and preferred residential filter and can remove up to 35 percent of all air-born dust particles.

MERV 9-MERV 12

Air filters with a MERV 9 through 12 ratings can capture airborne particles as small as milled flour and automotive emissions. MERV 9 filters remove up to 45 percent of dust particles from the air, while MERV 12 filters remove as much as 75 percent. These filters are very effective in helping AC units filter air. However, they also create unnecessary stress on your unit and can cause problems if not monitored or properly installed.

MERV 13 – 16

If you or someone in your home is immunocompromised or have other health conditions that affect your immune system, MERV 13 – 16 filters are woven tight enough to trap bacteria, sneeze droplets, and tobacco smoke. A filter rated 13 or higher can catch up to 90 percent of the dust in the air and guarantees the most efficient and highest filtration possible. They must be changed out more frequently, and you need to make sure your unit can handle the reduced air flow that these filters create.