Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. You probably consider your dog or cat a beloved family member and want to have them around for many years.
Regrettably, pet hair usually has a negative impact on the efficiency of 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?
A filter is an important part of any forced-air HVAC system. Your air filter captures airborne contaminants, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, preventing these contaminants from circulating in your home. 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 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 capable of damaging them. At sufficient efficiency, the air filter also improves indoor air quality by keeping particles out of your indoor air, which often contribute to allergies, asthma attacks and similar conditions.
How Does Pet Hair Affect Your HVAC System and 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 accumulates within 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.
Even with a filter in place, pet hair isn’t harmless. When return airflow arrives at the HVAC system, the filter traps the hair and prevents it from landing on sensitive cooling components. At the same time, this quickly clogs the filter up, 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, 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
Fortunately, it isn't hard to protect the efficiency of your AC, 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. Check 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 gradually piles up against the air registers and grilles, reducing airflow. Trying cleaning these using 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.
- Bathe or brush away excess pet hair: Regular brushing and bathing minimizes the hair your pet leaves behind. Brush your pets outside when possible 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 or in corners. Proper cleaning should include 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 just outside the home. Keep the area around this unit free of debris, including pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other forms of yard waste. This helps maintain consistent heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Keep up with routine AC maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain the air conditioner annually, preferably in the spring. They'll know how to find and resolve any small issues, clean key components and share advice on keeping your cooling system running efficiently with pets.
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