Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. To be honest, our pets are usually considered a beloved member of the family and we want to have them around for many years.
Annoyingly, pet hair usually has a negative impact on the efficiency of your air conditioning system. But with routine maintenance, you'll help preserve steady airflow and protect your cooling system 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. The filter is the primary solution to capture airborne particles, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, keeping them from reaching other rooms or areas of the property. Various designs can be used effectively, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. The overall effectiveness of an air filter can be measured with its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which is rated on a scale from 1 to 20, with higher ratings illustrating maximum efficiency.
Your filter is primarily responsible for protecting the evaporator coil, blower motor and other important parts from dirt and debris capable of damaging them. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by reducing particulates in the air, which often contribute to allergies, asthma attacks and other breathing problems.
How Does Pet Hair Affect the Air Filter of My HVAC System?
While animals are shedding, 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 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 microbes like mold, which give off foul odors and lower indoor air quality.
Even with a filter in place, pet hair isn’t harmless. When return airflow arrives at the HVAC system, the filter captures the hair as it passes, keeping it from landing on delicate cooling components. At the same time, this quickly clogs the filter up, decreasing airflow and increasing 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 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
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 number of pets and the filter's specific design, you might need to replace it 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 gradually piles up against the air registers and grilles, reducing airflow. You can clean them 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.
- Bathe or brush away excess pet hair: Regular brushing and bathing is a great strategy for reducing pet hair. Keep the brushing outdoors and sweep the area when you're done to stop hair from just drifting back 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. Proper cleaning should include vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and laundering your pet’s bedding.
- Keep the area around the outdoor unit clear: Central HVAC systems need 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 other forms of yard waste. This encourages normal heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Don't ignore preventive maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain the air conditioner annually, preferably in the spring. They'll know how to find and resolve any small issues, clean internal components and offer tips to keep your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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