A family pet is part of millions of families. You probably consider your dog or cat a beloved family member and want to keep them well-cared for.
Annoyingly, pet hair usually has a negative impact on the efficiency of your air conditioning system. With proper 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?
Your air filter is a key component of the 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. AC filters come in many different versions, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. Your filter's effectiveness can be illustrated 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 that could lead to problems. At sufficient efficiency, the air filter also improves indoor air quality by minimizing particulate matter, which can cause allergies, asthma attacks and other respiratory issues in sensitive individuals.
How Can Pet Hair Impact an HVAC System's Air Filter?
As pets shed, their hair becomes airborne and may gradually reach 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, 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 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, decreasing airflow and increasing strain on the HVAC system. Without exchanging or cleaning the filter, 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 cause of respiratory problems in people with 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:
- Stick to a regular schedule when cleaning or replacing the filter: Depending on the total number of pets as well as the filter's efficiency, you should try to replace it after 30 to 90 days. Keep an eye on it every month and replace it when it starts to appear clogged.
- Keep ventilation clear: Pet hair collects on the air registers and grilles, preventing proper ventilation. 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.
- Groom your pets: Regular brushing and bathing is a great strategy for reducing pet hair. Keep the brushing outdoors and sweep the area after you've finished to keep any hair from getting 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 in corners. Proper cleaning should include vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and washing any pet beds.
- Don't let debris collect near the outdoor unit: 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 objects. This ensures effective 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. They can find and resolve any small issues, clean key components and offer tips to keep your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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