Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. In fact, pets are usually considered part of the family, and we want to keep them well-cared for.
Annoyingly, pet hair can adversely affect your air conditioning system. With proper maintenance, you'll help preserve steady airflow and protect the cooling equipment from harm.
How Does an AC Filter Work, and Why is It So Important?
Air filters are one of the most important parts of any forced-air HVAC system. The filter is the primary solution to capture airborne particles, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, stopping them from spreading through the ductwork. AC filters come in many different versions, 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 indicating better filtration.
Your filter is primarily responsible for protecting the evaporator coil, blower motor and other important parts from dirt and debris that could cause damage. At sufficient efficiency, the air filter also improves indoor air quality by minimizing particulate matter, which could lead to allergies, asthma attacks and other breathing problems.
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. Without a filter installed, pet hair collects inside the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, reducing their efficiency and life span. Hair can also become clogged with moisture found in the cooling system, 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 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. That being said, eventually the filter will clog, decreasing airflow and increasing strain on the HVAC system. Without maintenance, you may experience higher energy bills and more frequent breakdowns.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, which consists 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:
- Stick to a regular schedule when cleaning or replacing the filter: Depending on the number of pets and the filter's specific design, you may need a new filter every 30 to 90 days. Take a look at the filter each month and replace it if you notice weaker airflow or can see evidence of a clog.
- Keep ventilation clear: Pet hair gradually piles up against the air registers and grilles, preventing proper ventilation. Clean these 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 in the air ducts every few years.
- Groom your pets: Regular brushing and bathing reduces the hair and dander your pets generate. Keep the brushing outdoors 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. Proper cleaning should include vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and laundering your pet’s bedding.
- Clear the area around the outdoor unit: Central air conditioning systems come with an outdoor unit fixed to a concrete slab just outside the home. Keep the area around this unit free of debris, like pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other forms of yard waste. This encourages normal heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Keep up with routine AC maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain your air conditioning system every year, preferably in the spring. They can find and resolve any small issues, clean internal components and share advice on keeping your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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