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 have them around for many years.
Regrettably, pet hair can be a constant struggle as it affects your air conditioning system. But with routine maintenance, you can ensure adequate airflow and protect your cooling system 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. It captures airborne particles, 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 is rated on a scale from 1 to 20, with higher ratings corresponding to stronger filtration.
The primary purpose of an AC filter is to protect the evaporator coil, blower motor and other important parts from dirt and debris capable of damaging them. At sufficient efficiency, the air filter also improves indoor air quality by keeping particles out of your indoor air, 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 is drawn into the HVAC system through the return air ducts. When the filter is missing, pet hair can build up on the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, potentially stopping them from working efficiently. 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 draws it toward the HVAC system, the filter traps the hair and prevents it from landing on delicate cooling components. However, this clogs the filter more quickly than usual, putting extra strain on the HVAC system. Without intervention, higher energy bills and more repair visits could be likely.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, made up of microscopic skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common allergen that causes respiratory problems in people with allergies or asthma. You may benefit from a higher efficiency filter to ensure it can 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 might need to replace it every 30 to 90 days. Take a look at the filter each month and replace it if you notice weaker airflow or can see evidence of a clog.
- Keep ventilation clear: Pet hair can accumulate on air registers and grilles, reducing airflow. Trying cleaning these using 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. Make sure to handle brushing outside and sweep the area afterward to prevent the hair from getting tracked 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.
- Clear the area around the outdoor unit: Central HVAC systems need an outdoor unit secured to a concrete slab just outside the 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: For best results, have a trusted HVAC technician inspect and maintain your air conditioning system every year, preferably in the spring. They'll know how to find and resolve any small issues, clean internal components and share advice on keeping your air conditioner running efficiently with pets.
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