Pets can be found in millions of homes. You probably consider your dog or cat a beloved family member and want to keep them well-cared for.
Annoyingly, pet hair can adversely affect your air conditioning system. But if you keep up with maintenance, you'll help preserve steady airflow and protect the cooling equipment from harm.
How Do AC Air Filters Work, and Why Are They Important?
A filter is an important part of any forced-air HVAC system. It captures airborne particles, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, stopping them from spreading through the ductwork. Various designs can be used effectively, 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.
An air filter’s key purpose is the protection of the evaporator coil, blower motor and other important parts from dirt and debris that could lead to problems. At sufficient efficiency, the air filter also improves indoor air quality by reducing particulates in the air, which can cause allergies, asthma attacks and similar conditions.
How Does Pet Hair Affect the Air Filter of My HVAC System?
While animals are shedding, their hair becomes airborne and is drawn into the HVAC system through the return air ducts. When the filter is missing, 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 microorganisms which can produce foul odors and lower indoor air quality.
Even when the filter is already in place, pet hair can still lead to problems. When return airflow arrives at the HVAC system, the filter captures the hair as it passes, keeping it from landing on sensitive cooling components. At the same time, this quickly clogs the filter up, putting extra strain on the HVAC system. Without exchanging or cleaning the filter, you may experience higher energy bills and more frequent breakdowns.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, consisting of small skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common allergen that causes respiratory problems for those suffering from 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
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 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.
- Periodically clean the return air ducts: 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, call a professional for cleaning out the collected pet hair, dander and dust in the air ducts every few years.
- Bathe or brush away excess pet hair: Regular brushing and bathing minimizes the hair your pet leaves behind. Brush your pets outside when possible and sweep the area when you're done to stop hair from just drifting back 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 under furniture. Keep up a regular cleaning routine that includes vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and laundering your pet’s bedding.
- Keep the area around the outdoor unit clear: Central air conditioners feature an outdoor unit secured to a concrete slab somewhere along an exterior wall of the home. Keep the area around this unit free of debris, such as pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and similar materials. This ensures effective heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Schedule regular maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain your air conditioning system every year, preferably in the spring. They'll know how to identify and fix small issues, clean internal components and share advice on keeping your air conditioner running efficiently with pets.
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