Pets can be found in millions of homes. To be honest, our pets are usually considered a beloved member of the family and we want to keep them well-cared for.
However, pet hair can adversely affect your air conditioning system. But if you keep up with maintenance, you can avoid impacting airflow and protect the cooling equipment from harm.
How Does an AC Filter Work, and Why is It So Important?
A filter is an important part of any forced-air HVAC system. It captures 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. Your filter's effectiveness can be illustrated with its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which ranges from 1 to 20, with higher ratings illustrating maximum efficiency.
Your filter is primarily responsible for protecting 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 reducing particulates in the air, which can cause allergies, asthma attacks and other breathing problems.
How Can Pet Hair Impact an HVAC System's Air Filter?
When pets shed, their hair becomes airborne and is drawn into the HVAC system through the return air ducts. Without a filter installed, pet hair can build up on the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, reducing their efficiency and life span. Hair can also become clogged with moisture found in the cooling system, 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 captures the hair as it passes, keeping 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 maintenance, higher energy bills and more repair visits could be likely.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, which consists of tiny 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
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 total number of pets as well as the filter's efficiency, you might need to replace it every 30 to 90 days. Take a look at the filter each month and replace it when a clog appears.
- Keep ventilation clear: 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, hire a professional to remove built-up pet hair, dander and dust in the air ducts every few years.
- Groom your pets: Regular brushing and bathing reduces the hair and dander your pets generate. Brush your pets outside when possible and sweep the area afterward to prevent the hair from getting tracked 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 washing any pet beds.
- Don't let debris collect near the outdoor unit: Central HVAC systems need an outdoor unit fixed to a concrete slab somewhere along an exterior wall of the home. Keep the area around this unit free of debris, including pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other forms of yard waste. This ensures effective heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Don't ignore preventive maintenance: Ideally, your local HVAC professional will inspect and maintain your air conditioning system every year, preferably in the spring. They can find and resolve any small issues, clean key components and share advice on keeping your cooling system running efficiently with pets.
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