Every residential and commercial HVAC system uses a filter to remove impurities that are present in the air so it doesn’t blow them back into the indoor spaces and contribute to indoor air pollution. The filter also prevents particles from damaging the system.
Is It Possible to Run an HVAC Unit Without a Filter?
The short answer is yes, your HVAC system can run without a filter. However, just because it can doesn’t mean it should. Running your HVAC unit without a filter is probably fine for a short period of time, but continuing to do so for over six hours is already pushing it. Unless you want your system to blow dirty air into your home or office and also risk damaging the unit, running the system without a filter is unwise.
How a Filter Works in an Air Conditioner.
An air conditioning system has a filter to prevent dirt and debris from entering the unit and being blown into your indoor environment. The air conditioner sucks in air from your interior environment and removes the heat from it before releasing it back into the room. The return vent that sucks in air has a filter, which is the only thing standing between the clean air that enters the unit and the dirt and debris that was present in the air before it was sucked in.
Without a filter, there’s nothing to stop dust, pet dander and other debris from entering your home. Not all of that debris will get blown back into the air in the building. Some of it will get stuck and accumulate in the system.
When you allow cooling and heating systems to run without a filter, there are negative effects:
Higher energy use. If you notice a spike in your electric bills, check the HVAC filter before calling a professional. If it’s dirty, try cleaning it. It might be what’s causing the unit to use more energy than it’s supposed to.
A dirty filter forces the HVAC unit to work harder than normal because it becomes more difficult for it to suck in air. A unit that works too hard uses more energy and is more likely to break down prematurely.
Now imagine using an HVAC system without a filter. All the dirt and debris that is sure to accumulate in the unit will make it even harder for it to work, so it will need more energy to reach the temperature you set on the thermostat.
It’s also possible that the unit is already damaged, which is why it’s burning up more energy than it used to.
Residential and commercial HVAC units need regular maintenance and cleaning to prevent damage and premature failure. Without proper cleaning and inspections, mineral scales, grime and dust will continue to build up on the condenser coil over time. A clean condenser is necessary in order for the air conditioner to remove the heat that builds up in the system. The unit will continue to run in an attempt to cool your indoor environment, but it’s only a matter of time before the equipment fails.
Compressors fail all the time due to overheating. If there’s no filter to prevent particles from finding their way to the compressor coil, dirt buildup will occur much faster, which means your unit is likely to fail much sooner.
Poor Indoor Air Quality
The filter is responsible for removing impurities from the air before the HVAC system blows heated or cooled air back into the building. Without a filter, dust, pet dander and other particles are free to fly around your heated or cooled space.
There are filters designed to remove the tiniest particles, even bacteria and viruses. HEPA filters are known to capture air impurities with extraordinary efficiency. Particles measuring 0.01 micron or 10 nanometers and above can be captured by a true HEPA filter. The coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic has particles with spikes that measure between 9 and 12 nanometers, which means an HVAC system or air purifier equipped with a HEPA filter can effectively reduce the presence of the coronavirus in the air.
An air conditioning system that runs without a filter will have a huge negative impact on the quality of indoor air, possibly even leading to the spread of disease or an increase in allergic reactions. These can include eye and skin irritations, as well as flare-ups of respiratory diseases such as asthma.
Research has shown that many homes and commercial spaces have air that’s more polluted than the air in the outdoor environment. As most people spend up to 90% of their time indoors, this is a concerning trend. While HVAC systems equipped with clean, efficient filters aren’t the only answer to this problem, it’s important that HVAC filters at least don’t contribute to it.
Less Efficient Heating & Cooling
As your HVAC system depends on a filter to remove impurities before indoor air is sucked into the system and then blown back out into the room, it needs the filtration system to be clean and efficient so the heated or cooled air can make your commercial space or home comfortable. A dirty filter compromises this capability. An absent air filter makes the system’s job even more difficult, and can soon lead to damage. If your system gives out on a searing hot summer day or a freezing winter night, you’ll have an extremely uncomfortable indoor experience.
Evaporator Coils Will Freeze
Evaporator coils contain a substance called refrigerant, which absorbs heat from your indoor air so your air conditioning system can blow cool air back into your home or office. They need to absorb this heat to continue functioning efficiently.
Without a filter, dust and other particles will combine with grime to cover the evaporator coils. As the coils will not be able to absorb as much heat as they used to, they’ll begin to freeze.
Frozen evaporator coils prevent your air conditioning unit from blowing back conditioned air, which is why your home or office may still feel hot even if you crank the thermostat to the lowest possible setting.
The compressor, which pumps refrigerant through the system, can get damaged. This is an expensive part of your system, and you won’t have any choice but to replace it if it breaks.
Even if your air conditioner continues to run for a while with frozen evaporator coils, you’ll be paying more for the energy the system uses without the benefit of a clean, healthy AC.
Commercial and residential cooling and heating systems need a filter to remove impurities before they suck indoor air into the system and blow it back into the areas they’re supposed to heat or cool.
An HVAC system can run without a filter, but this is inadvisable. Without a filter, the system will draw in debris-laden air and return the same dirty air into your indoor environment, contributing to health problems. Before long, the system will be inundated with dirt and debris, which can cause it to malfunction and use up more energy, which will shorten its life.
We can tell you more about air filters and how to properly care for your HVAC system. Get in touch with Acker Heating & Cooling for your residential and commercial HVAC needs. Call us today at (706) 715-2607 or leave us a message here.