Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. You probably consider your dog or cat a beloved family member and want to have them around for many years.
Regrettably, pet hair can be a constant struggle as it affects your air conditioning system. With proper maintenance, you can avoid impacting airflow and protect the cooling equipment from harm.
How Do AC Air Filters Work, and Why Are They Important?
Air filters are one of the most important parts of any forced-air HVAC system. Your air filter captures airborne contaminants, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, keeping them from reaching other rooms or areas of the property. There is lots of variety in the materials they use to accomplish this, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. A filter’s effectiveness depends os its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which could be anywhere from 1 to 20, with higher ratings illustrating maximum efficiency.
Your filter is primarily responsible for protecting the evaporator coil, blower motor and other delicate hardware from dirt and debris that could cause damage. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by minimizing particulate matter, which could lead to allergies, asthma attacks and similar conditions.
How Does Pet Hair Affect the Air Filter of My HVAC System?
When pets shed, their hair becomes airborne and may gradually reach the HVAC system through the return air ducts. If there isn't a filter in place, pet hair accumulates within the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, reducing their efficiency and life span. Hair can also encourage clogs if it interacts with the moisture inside your cooling, creating a breeding ground for mold and bacteria that can generate foul odors and lower indoor air quality.
But even if you have an air filter installed, pet hair isn’t harmless. When return airflow reaches the main HVAC system, the filter does its job by trapping the hair and preventing it from landing on vulnerable cooling components. However, this clogs the filter more quickly than usual, decreasing airflow and increasing strain on the HVAC system. Without intervention, high energy bills and frequent breakdowns may be right behind.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, which consists of microscopic skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common cause of respiratory problems for those suffering from allergies or asthma. You need a filter with a high MERV rating to effectively capture and remove dander, which is much smaller than pet hair.
How to Care for Your AC System and Filter with Pets
You can take steps to maintain the efficiency of your air conditioner, even with pets living in your home. Here’s how:
- Change the filter regularly: Depending on the number of pets and the filter's specific design, you should try to replace it after 30 to 90 days. Check it every month and replace it if you notice weaker airflow or can see evidence of a clog.
- Clean your air vents and ductwork: Pet hair gradually piles up against the air registers and grilles, preventing proper ventilation. Clean these with the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner as often as needed. Then, hire a professional to remove built-up pet hair, dander and dust inside your ductwork every few years.
- Bathe or brush away excess pet hair: Regular brushing and bathing is a great strategy for reducing pet hair. Make sure to handle brushing outside and sweep the area when you're done to stop hair from just drifting back inside.
- Consistently vacuum and dust: Pet hair can be found in pretty much every room of a house. A lot of it settles on surfaces around the house. Keep up a regular cleaning routine that includes vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and laundering your pet’s bedding.
- Don't let debris collect near the outdoor unit: Central air conditioners feature an outdoor unit mounted to a concrete slab outside your home. Keep the area around this unit free of debris, including pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and similar materials. This encourages normal heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Keep up with routine AC maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain your air conditioning system every year, preferably in the spring. They'll know how to find and resolve any small issues, keep internal components clean and share advice on keeping your air conditioner running efficiently with pets.
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