How a Dirty Air Filter Can Affect Your AC or Heat Pump

Tech Changing Air Filter

In Las Vegas, a properly functioning air conditioning system isn’t just a luxury; it’s often a necessity for comfort and well-being. However, many homeowners overlook a crucial component that can significantly impact the performance of their AC or heat pump: the air filter.

Can a Dirty Air Filter Affect Your AC's Performance?

A dirty air filter can have a significant impact on your air conditioner or heat pump’s ability to cool your home efficiently. Let's delve into some of the key ways a dirty air filter affects your AC:

  • Restricted airflow. Your air conditioner relies on proper airflow to function effectively. When the air filter becomes clogged with dust, dirt, and debris, it restricts the airflow passing through the system. This restriction causes the AC unit to work harder, leading to decreased efficiency and reduced cooling capacity. Restricted airflow can even cause the coils to freeze in your outdoor or window unit.

  • Reduced air quality. The primary function of an air filter is to trap airborne particles, including dust, pollen, pet dander, and mold spores. When the filter is dirty, it becomes less effective, allowing more contaminants to circulate in your indoor air.

  • Increased energy consumption. A clogged air filter in your AC system forces it to work harder to compensate for the restricted airflow. This translates to higher energy consumption and elevated utility bills. Moreover, the strain on the system can lead to premature wear and tear, reducing its lifespan.


Can a Dirty Air Filter Cause an AC Not to Cool?

Yes! A clogged filter can reduce your heat pump or air conditioner’s efficiency so much that your HVAC system blows warm or room temperature air, even when set to “cool.” This can be devastating on a sweltering Nevada summer day, where more heat is the last thing you need.

Can Not Changing the Air Filter Break an AC Unit?

Yes. After a while, the extra strain on your cooling system can cause it to break down. A dirty AC air filter can exacerbate minor mechanical issues or cause rapid wear and tear to machine parts. Eventually, the damage adds up to a broken air conditioner that needs professional AC repair.

How to Clean Your AC Air Filter

Cleaning or replacing your air filter regularly is vital to maintain optimal cooling performance. Here's a step-by-step guide for how to clean your AC air filter (or replace a disposable one):

  1. Turn off the AC system. Before removing the air filter, ensure that your HVAC is switched off at your thermostat to prevent any accidental damage. This also reduces the chance of blowing contaminants around your home while the filter is out of your system.

  2. Locate the filter. In most AC systems, the air filter is located near the air handler unit or the return air duct. A window unit has a filter inside, usually on top of the evaporator coils. Mini-split systems have a filter in each indoor unit. Refer to your system's user manual or consult an HVAC professional if you're unsure.

  3. Remove the filter. Gently remove the dirty filter from its housing. Take note of the AC filter’s airflow direction, marked on the side of the filter. The direction of the arrows should match when you reinstall or replace the filter.

  4. Clean the filter (washable only). Clean reusable air filters with a vacuum cleaner, a soft brush, or by rinsing it with water. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper cleaning techniques.

  5. Allow the filter to dry (washable only). If you've rinsed the filter with water, allow it to air dry completely before reinstalling it.

  6. Reinstall or replace the filter. Carefully insert the clean and dry, or the brand new, filter into its housing, ensuring the airflow direction matches the marked arrow on the filter. If you’re replacing a disposable filter, place the new filter in the same location and orientation as the previous one.


Maintaining a clean air filter is a small but crucial task that can have a significant impact on your AC system's performance and your overall comfort. By regularly cleaning or replacing your air filter, you ensure proper airflow, improve air quality, and prevent unnecessary strain on your AC unit.

Clean Air Filters for a Cooler Home

Everyone in Las Vegas loves their AC or heat pump—and needs their cooling system to work. If you're experiencing issues with your AC system or need professional assistance with cleaning, maintenance, or repairs, reach out to One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating of Las Vegas.

Our HVAC professionals are dedicated to providing top-notch service to Las Vegas, Spring Valley, Henderson, Whitney, Enterprise, and surrounding communities. Book online or call (702) 602-8801 today to get started.