Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. In fact, pets are usually considered part of the family, and we want to have them around for many years.
However, pet hair usually has a negative impact on the efficiency of your air conditioning system. But if you keep up with maintenance, you'll help preserve steady 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. It captures airborne particles, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, stopping them from spreading through the ductwork. Various designs can be used effectively, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. The overall effectiveness of an air filter can be measured with its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which could be anywhere from 1 to 20, with higher ratings indicating better 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 cause damage. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by keeping particles out of your indoor air, which often contribute to allergies, asthma attacks and other breathing problems.
How Does Pet Hair Affect Your HVAC System and Filter?
While animals are shedding, their hair becomes airborne and may gradually reach the HVAC system through the return air ducts. Without a filter installed, 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.
Even when the filter is already in place, pet hair can still lead to problems. When return airflow reaches the main HVAC system, the filter traps the hair and prevents it from landing on delicate cooling components. However, this clogs the filter more quickly than usual, limiting airflow and placing additional 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, which consists of tiny skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common allergen that causes 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
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 number of pets and the filter's specific design, you might need to replace it every 30 to 90 days. Keep an eye on it every month and replace it when a clog appears.
- Periodically clean the return air ducts: 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, hire a professional to remove built-up pet hair, dander and dust in the air ducts every few years.
- Groom your pets: Regular brushing and bathing is a great strategy for reducing pet hair. Brush your pets outside when possible and sweep the area when you're done to stop hair from just drifting back 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.
- Don't let debris collect near the outdoor unit: Central air conditioners feature an outdoor unit mounted to a concrete slab just outside the home. Clear away any accumulated debris, like pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other forms of yard waste. This helps maintain consistent heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Schedule regular maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain your air conditioning system every year, preferably in the spring. This professional can find and resolve any small issues, clean key components and offer tips to keep your air conditioner running efficiently with pets.
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