Are you wondering if it’s important to use air conditioner filters that contain activated carbon? The addition of carbon can be a very important part of the manufacturing process for air filters. Adding carbon to the filter materials increases the adsorption properties of the air filter, allowing more air pollutants to be removed from the air. Activated carbon is one of the most adsorbent materials available for residential and commercial air filters.

About Activated Carbon Air Conditioner Filters
Activated carbon is typically added to air filters to aid in the removal of gaseous pollutants from interior spaces where they can be harmful if inhaled. These gaseous pollutants can be the result of combustion processes in vehicles creating exhaust, cooking on a gas stove, or smoking, or have originated from building materials and furnishings. High levels of gaseous pollutants may be present in the air after the use of cleaning products, paints, adhesives, or pesticides.

Air filters containing activated carbon can also be used for removing unpleasant odors from the air, including pet odors and cooking odors. Every air filter should be sealed individually to ensure that the carbon does not get used up prior to going into service.

The activated carbon that has been added to the air filter adheres to the filter material that cleans the air stream as it passes through the unit. When the gaseous pollutants come into contact with the carbon, they are adsorbed onto the carbon to be held until the filter is changed and discarded. Different types of air filters have different adsorption levels for different types of gaseous pollutants.

Most residential and commercial air filters are designed to work on a limited number of gaseous pollutants and may be ineffective at removing pollutants for which they are not designed. Although the concentration of pollutants may be reduced on a temporary basis, the air filter will be unable to reduce the concentration to a non-hazardous level consistently for an extended period of time unless the air filter is designed for those specific needs.

Commercial and residential air filters containing carbon are very effective at removing many types of molecules associated with human lifestyle processes, including garbage odors, bathroom odors, food aromas, and the scents of perfume and cologne. Pet odors can be eliminated and cigarette smoke smells are reduced to a negligible level by the activated carbon in the filter. It is important to be aware, however, that carbon is not very effective at eliminating harmful gases, such as carbon monoxide, ethane, propane, or hydrogen, from the interior air of a home or business.

Replacing Carbon Air Filters
It is important to remove the air filter as soon as the carbon has been depleted, as the air filter will be ineffective at removing gaseous pollutants with no carbon available for adsorption. The packaging of the air filter will provide a recommended lifespan for the unit, after which the unit should be changed to ensure efficient performance, prevent overloading, and prevent the trapped pollutants from being released back into the air.

Choosing a Carbon Filter: Surface Area Considerations
Many manufacturers imply that carbon weight equals effectiveness (100 grams is better than 20 grams), but that is not necessarily true. The most important factor is really surface area, since carbon does not absorb like a sponge, it adsorbs, holds pollutants on the surface. Twenty grams of pulverized (fine) carbon is much better than one 100 gram ball of carbon.

To illustrate that, calculate the surface areas of a basketball and bb's (really small copper balls used in air rifles) that would fit inside a regulation basketball. Surprisingly, the surface area of the bb's in that case is 200,000 times more than the surface area of the basketball. If the basketball and bb's were carbon, the bb's would be 200,000 times more capable.

Author's Bio: 

Jim Gates, CAFS, is the brand manager for Quality Filters, Inc. (, a leading manufacturer and distributor of high quality home and commercial air filters. The company’s products are available online at (