Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. You probably consider your dog or cat a beloved family member and want to keep them well-cared for.
Unfortunately, pet hair can be a constant struggle as it affects your air conditioning system. With proper maintenance, you can ensure adequate airflow and protect your cooling system 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, 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 ranges from 1 to 20, with higher ratings indicating better filtration.
Your filter is primarily responsible for protecting the evaporator coil, blower motor and other delicate hardware from dirt and debris that could cause damage. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by reducing particulates in the air, which often contribute to allergies, asthma attacks and similar conditions.
How Can Pet Hair Impact an HVAC System's Air Filter?
As pets shed, their hair becomes airborne and is drawn into the HVAC system through the return air ducts. Without a filter installed, pet hair collects inside the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, potentially stopping them from working efficiently. Hair can also mix with condensation formed during air conditioning, creating a breeding ground for mold and bacteria that can generate 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 traps the hair and prevents it from landing on sensitive cooling components. That being said, eventually the filter will clog, putting extra strain on the HVAC system. Without maintenance, higher energy bills and more repair visits could be likely.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, consisting of microscopic skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common cause of 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
Fortunately, it isn't hard to protect the efficiency of your AC, 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. Keep an eye on 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 can accumulate on air registers and grilles, reducing airflow. 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.
- 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 after you've finished to keep any hair from getting back 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 washing any pet beds.
- Clear the area around the outdoor unit: Central HVAC systems need an outdoor unit mounted to a concrete slab just outside the home. Clear away any accumulated debris, like pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other objects. This helps maintain consistent heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Schedule regular maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain the air conditioner annually, preferably in the spring. This professional 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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