Do Air Conditioners Filter Smoke? What You Need To Know

Everyone knows smoking is bad for your health, and if you spend time around someone who smokes you breathe in the harmful particles as well.

If you smoke or live with a smoker you might be wondering do air conditioners filter smoke? The answer is not a simple yes or no as there are many factors to consider. So read on to find out if your air conditioner will filter smoke.

The particles you want to trap

As explained by Colman Air cigarette smoke contains harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide, ammonia, arsenic, benzene and hydrogen cyanide. These pollutants will stick to your lungs (if you’re the one smoking the cigarette) and also linger in the room, causing indoor air pollution.

Unfortunately, regular air conditioner filters aren’t designed to trap these small particles, which means a significant portion of the pollutants will pass through the filter and stick to the walls, carpets and furniture in your home. This means the harmful effect and smell will linger in your home.

The easiest solution would simply be to not smoke indoors. However, if this is not feasible or ideal there are still some things you can do to make your air conditioners run better and equip them to filter smoke to some extent.

​Regularly change the filters

If you often smoke in the room where an air conditioner is located it is crucial to change the unit’s filters at least once a month to ensure the best possible efficiency. If you fail to regularly change the filter of your air conditioner, its efficiency will decrease and the cost of running it will rise.

While regularly changing the filter will make your air conditioner run more efficiently despite coming in contact with smoke. However, it’s important to note that this will not mean that your air conditioner filters smoke – unless you replace its filter with one specifically designed for that purpose.

Image Source Flickr user Michael Coghlan

Get a special filter

To get the best air conditioner filter for your needs you should ideally speak to an HVAC professional. Colman Air notes that there are special air filters on the market designed to filter out specific types of pollutants circulating in your home,  including smoke.

According to this article published in the New York Times you can turn an air conditioner into an air cleaner by replacing the regular filter with a HEPA filter, and running the unit a few times. A good rule of thumb is to look for a filter with a minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV, of over 10. The article does note, however, that this works best to eliminate pollens , not smoke.

It’s important to remember that, no matter what filter you use, the main function of an air conditioner will still be to cool the air, not to purify it. This means that, if your main goal is to filter smoke from the air you should probably look at getting an air purifier, rather than (or in addition to) an air conditioner.

Air purifiers

An air purifier can help you filter smoke from your home. However, as noted by NYC Health, you should be aware that no air purifier can filter all pollutants from the air. That said, most air purifiers will remove a lot of the harmful particles in the air, even if they do not eliminate the odor.

As noted by VIPforAir, if the main reason you’re getting an air purifier is to eliminate smoke, you need to make sure it is specifically designed for this purpose. Many normal air purifiers will help with things like pollens, but they’re not typically designed to eradicate gaseous pollutants from cigarette smoke.

There are, however, many air purifiers on the market from recent years that have advanced technology to help eliminate tobacco smoke. Many of them are great for smaller spaces and help to assist with allergies as well. So speak to a specialist and make sure you’re buying the right air purifier.

The next step

An regular air conditioner on its own will not filter smoke from the air in your home. While there are things you can do to improve its ability to do this (like installing a special filter) it will always remain an air conditioner, with the primary purpose of cooling – not cleaning – the air.

If you’re serious about purifying the air in your home, you’d be much better off getting an air purifier that is specifically designed to filter smoke from the air.

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