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.
Regrettably, pet hair usually has a negative impact on the efficiency of your air conditioning system. But with routine maintenance, you can ensure adequate airflow and protect the cooling equipment from harm.
How Does an AC Filter Work, and Why is It So Important?
Your air filter is a key component of the HVAC system. It captures 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. Your filter's effectiveness can be illustrated with its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which could be anywhere from 1 to 20, with higher ratings corresponding to stronger filtration.
Your filter is primarily responsible for protecting the evaporator coil, blower motor and other delicate hardware from dirt and debris that could lead to problems. At sufficient efficiency, the air filter also improves indoor air quality by keeping particles out of your indoor air, which can cause 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 can build up on the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, slowing them down and reducing efficiency. 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.
But even if you have an air filter installed, pet hair isn’t harmless. When return airflow reaches the main HVAC system, the filter does its job by trapping the hair and preventing it from landing on sensitive cooling components. That being said, eventually the filter will clog, 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, which consists of tiny skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common allergen that causes respiratory problems for those suffering from 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
You can take steps to maintain the efficiency of your air conditioner, even with pets living in your home. Here’s how:
- Stick to a regular schedule when cleaning or replacing the filter: 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 when a clog appears.
- Clean your air vents and ductwork: Pet hair gradually piles up against the air registers and grilles, limiting circulation. 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.
- Bathe or brush away excess pet hair: Regular brushing and bathing is a great strategy for reducing pet hair. Make sure to handle brushing outside 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 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 mounted to a concrete slab just outside the home. Keep the area around this unit free of debris, such as pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other objects. This helps maintain consistent heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Keep up with routine AC maintenance: Ideally, your local HVAC professional will inspect and maintain your cooling system once a year, preferably in the spring. This professional 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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