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Touchstone Heating & Air Inc. Blog

What Happens If I Run My AC Without Its Filter?


We place special emphasis on a maintenance task that homeowners can do on their own to help their air conditioning systems: regularly change the air filter. After a span of one to three months, this filter will pick up enough dust and debris that it will choke off airflow into the HVAC system. This leads to numerous troubles:

  • A drop in energy efficiency leading to higher electricity bills
  • Strain on the blower fan motor that can make it overheat and trip the circuit breaker
  • Low airflow from the vents
  • Reduced cooling power
  • Infiltration of dust and debris into the AC unit, leading to damage

And you might think, “Well, if a clogged air filter is such a bother, why not run the AC without the filter?” We hope you don’t actually try this, because that air filter does an important job. If you run your air conditioner for any length of time without the air filter, you risk serious damage to the cooling system and AC repair in High Springs, FL—or even a full replacement.

The air filter’s job

You might think the air filter is in place to clean your home’s air, and if the air is already quite clean, it doesn’t matter if the filter is there. But this is not what the filter is for. The air filter protects the interior of the HVAC system from damage due to dust, dirt, lint, and other debris the blower fan pulls through the return air duct. Without the filter, the AC is exposed to these particles. 

When you run the AC with no air filter, you can expect the following troubles:

Frozen evaporator coil

Dust and dirt will rapidly collect on the evaporator coil of the AC because its surface is usually damp. Once enough grime coats the coil, the coil won’t be able to absorb enough heat to warm up the refrigerant inside it. The cold refrigerant will then cause the water moisture along the coil to turn to ice. A frozen evaporator coil will prevent the AC from providing any cooling. Before that happens, the AC will lose energy efficiency as it has to work harder to draw enough heat from the air.

Condensate drain trouble

Allowing all that debris into the AC will lead to much of it getting into the condensate drain pan. This pan collects the water moisture that drips down from the evaporator coil, where it exits through a drain. Debris will rapidly cause the drain to clog, and the condensate pan will overflow. When this happens, the AC’s limit switch will trip and the whole system will shut off.

Low indoor air quality

The air filter isn’t in place to improve indoor air quality, but its absence will definitely make indoor air quality worse! The air conditioner will now circulate the dust in your house continuously, and you’ll start to notice the unpleasant difference.

So not only shouldn’t you run your AC without the filter, you should make certain you’re aware of the filter’s importance so you change it routinely. All the problems we mentioned above will also occur if the filter becomes excessively clogged.

Call Touchstone Heating and Air 24/7 for exceptional customer service! Serving the communities of North Central Florida since 1998.

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