What Happens When an Air Filter Gets Dirty?

When an air filter gets dirty, it can have a significant impact on the performance of your car and your home. A dirty air filter reduces the amount of air supplied to the engine, leading to an increase in unburned fuel that becomes soot residue. This soot can build up on the tips of the spark plugs, making them unable to produce a proper spark. As a result, the car may move sharply, idle, and in some cases, the engine may fail.

In addition to affecting your car's performance, a clogged and dirty air filter can also have an impact on your home. It allows dust and dirt to pass through the ventilation system, creating more dust and leaving a film on all surfaces. This recirculated dust and dirt is then driven through the filter by fans. If the filter becomes too clogged with debris, then the blower has to work harder to get air through it.

This can lead to hot and cold spots in your home, making it difficult to achieve desired indoor temperature levels. To prevent this from happening, you should check your air filter regularly and replace it when necessary. The MERV rating of the filter indicates its cleaning efficiency, with higher numbers indicating greater cleaning efficiency. If you have a reusable filter, you should handle it with care to ensure it keeps your air conditioner running at peak efficiency.

In recent years, manufacturers have designed filters that use their heating and air system to remove microscopic particles such as dust, pollen, pet dander, bacteria, plant spores and mold, and even smoke from the air of your home. If you install a new filter but don't turn on the heating or air conditioning until later, the filter should still be relatively clean since the system hasn't been forcing air through it. However, if you don't change or clean your air filter regularly, it can lead to costly air conditioning repairs. The particulate removal efficiency of the filter is inversely related to the energy efficiency of your heating and air system.

With less airflow due to clogging, the central air conditioning and heating system will run longer in an effort to heat the house, increasing energy consumption. Advanced filters can last longer between cleanings and replacements, so check with the manufacturer for a recommended program. In short, every time your system is forced to work harder due to a clogged filter, it's costing you money while providing less air.