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 your air conditioner from harm.
How Do AC Air Filters Work, and Why Are They 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. There is lots of variety in the materials they use to accomplish this, 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 indicating better filtration.
Your filter is primarily responsible for protecting the evaporator coil, blower motor and other delicate hardware from dirt and debris capable of damaging them. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by minimizing particulate matter, which often contribute to allergies, asthma attacks and other respiratory issues in sensitive individuals.
How Does Pet Hair Affect the Air Filter of My HVAC System?
While animals are shedding, their hair becomes airborne and can eventually get 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, potentially stopping them from working efficiently. 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.
Even with a filter in place, pet hair can still lead to problems. When return airflow draws it toward 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, decreasing airflow and increasing strain on the HVAC system. Without intervention, high energy bills and frequent breakdowns may be right behind.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, made up of tiny skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common cause of respiratory problems for those suffering from allergies or asthma. You may benefit from a higher efficiency filter to ensure it can 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:
- Change the filter regularly: Depending on the total number of pets as well as the filter's efficiency, you may need a new filter every 30 to 90 days. Check it every month and replace it if you notice weaker airflow or can see evidence of a clog.
- Keep ventilation clear: Pet hair can accumulate on air registers and grilles, limiting circulation. 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 in the air ducts every few years.
- Keep pets well-groomed: 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: Pet hair can be found in pretty much every room of a house. A lot of it settles on surfaces or under furniture. Proper cleaning should include vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and washing any pet beds.
- Don't let debris collect near the outdoor unit: Central air conditioning systems come with an outdoor unit fixed to a concrete slab outside your home. Clear away any accumulated debris, including pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and similar materials. This encourages normal 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 identify and fix small issues, clean internal components and offer tips to keep your air conditioner running efficiently with pets.
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