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.
Annoyingly, pet hair can be a constant struggle as it affects your air conditioning system. But with routine maintenance, you can avoid impacting airflow and protect the cooling equipment from harm.
How Do AC Air Filters Work, and Why Are They Important?
Your air filter is a key component of the HVAC system. The filter is the primary solution to capture airborne particles, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, preventing these contaminants from circulating in your home. Various designs can be used effectively, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. A filter’s effectiveness depends os its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which is rated on a scale from 1 to 20, with higher ratings illustrating maximum efficiency.
The primary purpose of an AC filter is to protect the evaporator coil, blower motor and other cooling system components from dirt and debris that could lead to problems. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by minimizing particulate matter, which often contribute to allergies, asthma attacks and other respiratory issues in sensitive individuals.
How Does Pet Hair Affect Your HVAC System and Filter?
When pets shed, their hair becomes airborne and can eventually get into 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.
Even when the filter is already in place, pet hair isn’t harmless. When return airflow reaches the main HVAC system, the filter traps the hair and prevents it from landing on sensitive cooling components. However, this clogs the filter more quickly than usual, decreasing airflow and increasing strain on the HVAC system. Without exchanging or cleaning the filter, higher energy bills and more repair visits could be likely.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, consisting of microscopic skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common allergen that causes respiratory problems in people with 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
Maintaining an efficient, properly functioning air conditioner is certainly possible, even with pets living in your home. Here’s how:
- Change the filter regularly: Depending on the type of filter and how many pets you have, you may need a new filter every 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 can accumulate on air registers and grilles, reducing airflow. Clean these with the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner as often as needed. Then, call a professional for cleaning out the collected pet hair, dander and dust in the air ducts every few years.
- Groom your pets: Regular brushing and bathing minimizes the hair your pet leaves behind. Keep the brushing outdoors and sweep the area when you're done to stop hair from just drifting back inside.
- Consistently vacuum and dust: Not all pet hair ends up in the HVAC system. A lot of it settles on surfaces or in corners. Proper cleaning should include 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 secured to a concrete slab outside your home. Keep the area around this unit free of debris, such as pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other objects. This helps maintain consistent heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Keep up with routine AC maintenance: For best results, have a trusted HVAC technician inspect and maintain your air conditioning system every year, preferably in the spring. They can find and resolve any small issues, clean internal components and provide recommendations about how to keep your air conditioner running efficiently with pets.
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