The air conditioner in your RV is one of the key items that ensures home-like comfort during your journey. And since the climate can change drastically when traveling across states, you may find yourself using your RV AC very often.
To make sure that your air conditioner is delivering the cooling capacity that it is designed to deliver, there is some occasional maintenance that you need to do. In particular, you need to make sure that the AC’s filter is clean.
And if you don’t know how to clean the filter of your RV air conditioner, this material is for you.
Why is it important to keep your AC filter clean?
While your RV AC (and basically any kind of AC) is working, air is constantly going through it. And since air is often not perfectly clean, air conditioners employ some kind of a filter system in order to restrict the inflow of contaminants.
AC filters physically trap the contaminants, and, needless to say, if you don’t occasionally clean the filter, it is going to have all sorts of nasty stuff built up on it. This is undesirable for a number of reasons.
First of all, the filter protects the interior components of the AC from getting damaged by debris from outside. Thus, proper care is necessary to ensure that the filter stays intact.
Secondly, a dirty filter is going to severely restrict the effectiveness of your RV’s cooling system. Dust or grime buildup on the filter can reduce the flow of air through the AC. Not only you will get less airflow from your AC, but it may start drawing more energy in order to achieve its regular cooling capacity.
The dirt could also start accumulating in the RV ducts as well, which over time can cause respiratory issues, especially in people who already have respiratory conditions.
Lastly, if left unaddressed for a long time, a dirty filter could make your entire AC go bad. And replacing an air conditioner isn’t the cheapest and easiest thing to do in the world.
How to clean RV air conditioner filter?
Now, a thing to keep in mind with filters is that they can be washed only if they aren’t disposable one-time-use filters. Your RV’s AC probably has washable filters, but you should make sure that they can indeed be cleaned just in case.
If your AC unit’s filters aren’t washable, you will need to replace them instead. Don’t attempt to wash a disposable filter since it most likely will just get damaged in the process. And it probably won’t regain its former effectiveness.
Remove the filter
Turn off the electrical supply of your air conditioner and remove its protective cover. Your RV’s AC unit may have screws that you have to remove, or you may just have to push tabs to release the cover. You don’t need to completely remove the cover given that you can safely remove the filter while it is partially unscrewed.
To find out exact instructions on removing the air filter from your air conditioner, consult the AC’s user manual.
Keep in mind that you should not turn your conditioner on without the filter in. Unfiltered air will rush into your RV and, and debris will most likely severely damage your AC unit.
Vacuum the filter
Take the filter out of the RV to prevent all the dirt and dust from contaminating your interior. Then, use a vacuum on a medium or low setting to remove visible dust and grime from the surface of the filter. Make sure not to press on the filter too hard so that you don’t break or dent it.
While vacuuming the filter, it may seem that not too much dirt is coming off of it. This will probably happen if the filter hasn’t been contaminated too heavily. You should still give the filter a good vacuum cleaning in order to make the following steps easier.
On the other hand, don’t think that you will be able to get all the dirt off of the filter if it is very dirty. Suck up as much as you can before moving to the next step.
For regular cleaning, it may be enough for you to just vacuum the filter and not do deep cleaning. However, this will work only if there is no tough grime on the filter.
Wash the filter
If you feel that vacuuming your filter hasn’t made it clean enough, then you should wash it.
Prepare a container with lukewarm water and add a mild detergent to it. Mix the water with the detergent to create a rich lather.
You may use the bathtub in the RV shower as a container if that’s feasible for you. Avoid using strong cleaning solutions since they can easily damage the filter.
Submerge the filter in the cleaning solution and move it around so that it gets completely covered with the soapy solution. Leave the filter in the water for 10-15 minutes. If the filter is very grimy, leave it in the solution for 1-2 hours, more if necessary.
You may also use a soft brush to help the grime come off the filter. Do not use abrasive tools since they could easily damage the delicate surface of the filter.
You can alternatively hose both sides of the filter until only clean water drips out of it. But make sure not to use a pressurized hose nozzle since water under pressure could easily damage the delicate filter.
If you are doing this step in the RV shower, you may use the detachable shower head to rinse the filter.
Deal with bacteria
After the filter is cleaned from dirt and grime, it is time for you to get rid of the bacteria that are likely thriving on it. Mix a solution of equal parts of water with vinegar. Put the solution in a spray bottle and spray both sides of the filter.
Let the filter sit for around 10 minutes and then rinse it with running water. You may hose your filter down if you have the equipment.
Dry the filter & place it back
Needless to say, putting the filter back in the AC while it is wet is a bad idea. You should let it air-dry for several hours before installing it back in the AC.
If you have a rack, then you can place it on a clean surface outside the RV and put the filter on top for drying. If you don’t have a rack, place some dry newspapers outside the RV and put the filter over them and against a wall.
In a few hours, once you are sure that the filter is completely dry, put it back into the AC and reinstall the cover. Now, you should be able to enjoy pure & uninterrupted air flow in your RV.
Tips on RV air conditioner filter maintenance
After having your air conditioner filter cleaned up, you shouldn’t place it back and just forget about it for several months. Before your next cleaning session, you should maintain the filter in a good condition to make sure that it lives long and that the AC delivers the expected cooling performance.
Here are some tips on how to take care of your air conditioner’s filter between cleaning services.
Use the AC’s automatic cleaning function
If your RV’s air conditioning unit has an auto cleaning function, definitely make use of it. AC units that have this function use an internal brush device to remove dust from the filter. Then, the dust is deposited in a small chamber, from which it eventually gets blown outside.
You shouldn’t use your RV’s air conditioner’s inbuilt auto cleanup function as a substitute to occasional cleanups though. It will just help the filter stay cleaner for a longer time, but it won’t be able to deal with tough contaminations.
Regularly clean your AC filter
This tip is an obvious one. You should regularly clean your air conditioner’s filter. To know how often you should clean the filter, consult the AC’s user manual. Some manufacturers recommend cleaning AC filters once every 30 days, while others recommend to do it once per two weeks. If you have pets or allergies, you should clean your RV AC unit more frequently.
Replace the filter if necessary
Every RV AC filter only has so much durability in them, and you won’t be able to clean it indefinitely. A time will come when the AC filter is no longer serviceable.
Usually, it is easy to spot wear in AC filters. If you notice holes, tears, or any other damage to your filter, make sure to replace it. It may be a good idea to have a couple of spare filters with you on the journey, though it shouldn’t be a problem for you to acquire one at a nearby home appliances store.
Run the AC only when necessary
Lastly, you should run your RV’s AC unit only when you need it. This will not only decrease the rate of contamination in the AC but will also allow you to save RV power. Even if you have plenty of spare power, keep the AC off when it is not necessary.