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.
Annoyingly, pet hair can adversely affect your air conditioning system. But if you keep up with maintenance, you'll help preserve steady airflow and protect your air conditioner 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. Various designs can be used effectively, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. A filter’s effectiveness depends os its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which ranges from 1 to 20, with higher ratings indicating better filtration.
The primary purpose of an AC filter is to protect the evaporator coil, blower motor and other important parts from dirt and debris that could lead to problems. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by minimizing particulate matter, which could lead to allergies, asthma attacks and similar conditions.
How Does Pet Hair Affect the Air Filter of My HVAC System?
When 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, slowing them down and reducing efficiency. 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.
But even if you have an air filter installed, pet hair can still lead to problems. When return airflow reaches the main HVAC system, the filter captures the hair as it passes, keeping it from landing on vulnerable 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, high energy bills and frequent breakdowns may be right behind.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, made up of microscopic skin flakes and saliva particles, commonly exacerbates respiratory problems for those suffering from 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
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 might need to replace it every 30 to 90 days. Keep an eye on it every month and replace it when it starts to appear clogged.
- Periodically clean the return air ducts: 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, hire a professional to remove built-up pet hair, dander and dust inside your ductwork 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 afterward to prevent the hair from getting tracked 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 around the house. 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 HVAC systems need an outdoor unit fixed to a concrete slab somewhere along an exterior wall of the home. Clear away any accumulated debris, including pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other objects. This ensures effective heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Keep up with routine AC maintenance: For best results, have a trusted HVAC technician inspect and maintain your cooling system once a year, preferably in the spring. They'll know how to find and resolve any small issues, clean key components and offer tips to keep your cooling system running efficiently with pets.
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