Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. You probably consider your dog or cat a beloved family member and want to keep them well-cared for.
However, pet hair can be a constant struggle as it affects your air conditioning system. But if you keep up with maintenance, you can avoid impacting airflow and protect your air conditioner 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. 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. 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 is rated on a scale from 1 to 20, with higher ratings indicating better filtration.
The primary purpose of an AC filter is to protect the evaporator coil, blower motor and other cooling system components from dirt and debris capable of damaging them. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by minimizing particulate matter, which could lead to allergies, asthma attacks and other respiratory issues in sensitive individuals.
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. Without a filter installed, pet hair collects inside the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, potentially stopping them from working efficiently. Hair can also become clogged with moisture found in the cooling system, creating a breeding ground for microorganisms which can produce foul odors and lower indoor air quality.
But even if you have an air filter installed, pet hair isn’t harmless. When return airflow draws it toward the HVAC system, the filter traps the hair and prevents it from landing on vulnerable cooling components. That being said, eventually the filter will clog, putting extra strain on the HVAC system. Without maintenance, you may experience higher energy bills and more frequent breakdowns.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, consisting of tiny skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common cause of respiratory problems in people with allergies or asthma. Filters with higher MERV ratings are more likely 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 total number of pets as well as the filter's efficiency, you might need to replace it every 30 to 90 days. Check it every month and replace it when it starts to appear clogged.
- Keep ventilation clear: Pet hair can accumulate on air registers and grilles, limiting circulation. 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 inside your ductwork every few years.
- Groom your pets: Regular brushing and bathing is a great strategy for reducing pet hair. Brush your pets outside when possible and sweep the area afterward to prevent the hair from getting tracked inside.
- Consistently vacuum and dust: While it affects your HVAC system, pet hair can be found all throughout your home. A lot of it settles on surfaces or in corners. Keep up a regular cleaning routine that includes vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and washing any pet beds.
- Keep the area around the outdoor unit clear: Central air conditioning systems come with an outdoor unit secured to a concrete slab outside your home. Clear away any accumulated debris, including pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other forms of yard waste. This ensures effective heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Schedule regular maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain the air conditioner annually, preferably in the spring. They can find and resolve any small issues, clean key components and share advice on keeping your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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