Change your air filter this summer

For less than $20 this summer, you make the air your family breathes inside your home cleaner and healthier.

That’s how much it costs to buy a good-quality, pleated air conditioner filter to replace the dirty one that’s probably in place now.

If you buy a filter that’s too cheap—like one that costs only a couple of dollars—you could do more harm than good. Those filters don’t do a good job of trapping small pollutants like dust and pet dander; in fact, they remove only about 10 percent of pollutants from the air. So those particles find their way into your air conditioning system, where they can clog up the works or blow back into your home for you to breathe in again and again.

And there’s no need to buy an ultra-thick filter that costs $30 or $40. Even though they will trap the tiniest bits of dust and dander, some of them are so thick that they don’t allow the air to flow through them freely, especially if you don’t clean them every week. That makes your air conditioner work harder, and will shorten its life.

Your best bet: a one-inch, pleated air filter that looks like cloth on the outside, but the pleats contain fibers that catch allergy-causing smoke, mold and dust before your air conditioning system can suck it in. At the same time, the pleated filter allows enough air to get through so your system can operate properly.

Using a pleated filter and replacing it every couple of months during the summer will keep your air cleaner and your air conditioning system in tip-top shape for longer