Pets can be found in millions of homes. In fact, pets are usually considered part of the family, and we want to keep them well-cared for.
Annoyingly, pet hair can be a constant struggle as it affects your air conditioning system. With proper maintenance, you can ensure adequate airflow and protect the cooling equipment 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. There is lots of variety in the materials they use to accomplish this, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. A filter’s effectiveness depends os its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which is rated on a scale from 1 to 20, with higher ratings corresponding to stronger filtration.
An air filter’s key purpose is the protection of 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 minimizing particulate matter, which could lead to allergies, asthma attacks and other respiratory issues in sensitive individuals.
How Does Pet Hair Affect the Air Filter of My HVAC System?
As pets shed, their hair becomes airborne and is drawn into the HVAC system through the return air ducts. If there isn't a filter in place, pet hair can build up on the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, reducing their efficiency and life span. Hair can also encourage clogs if it interacts with the moisture inside your cooling, creating a breeding ground for microbes like mold, which give off foul odors and lower indoor air quality.
But even if you have an air filter installed, 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 vulnerable cooling components. That being said, eventually the filter will clog, putting extra strain on the HVAC system. Without exchanging or cleaning the filter, high energy bills and frequent breakdowns may be right behind.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, consisting of microscopic skin flakes and saliva particles, commonly exacerbates respiratory problems in people with allergies or asthma. You need a filter with a high MERV rating 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 total number of pets as well as the filter's efficiency, you should try to replace it after 30 to 90 days. Take a look at the filter each month and replace it when it starts to appear clogged.
- Keep ventilation clear: Pet hair gradually piles up against the air registers and grilles, reducing airflow. 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 inside your ductwork every few years.
- Keep pets well-groomed: Regular brushing and bathing reduces the hair and dander your pets generate. Brush your pets outside when possible 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 in corners. Proper cleaning should include vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and laundering your pet’s bedding.
- Clear the area around the outdoor unit: Central HVAC systems need an outdoor unit secured to a concrete slab outside your 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.
- Schedule regular maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain the air conditioner annually, preferably in the spring. They can identify and fix small issues, keep internal components clean and share advice on keeping your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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