Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. To be honest, our pets are usually considered a beloved member of the family and we want to have them around for many years.
Unfortunately, pet hair can adversely affect your air conditioning system. But with routine 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?
Your air filter is a key component of the HVAC system. Your air filter captures airborne contaminants, 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. The overall effectiveness of an air filter can be measured with its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which ranges from 1 to 20, with higher ratings illustrating maximum efficiency.
The primary purpose of an AC filter is to protect the evaporator coil, blower motor and other cooling system components from dirt and debris that could cause damage. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by reducing particulates in the air, which could lead to allergies, asthma attacks and other breathing problems.
How Can Pet Hair Impact an HVAC System's Air Filter?
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, 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 mold and bacteria that can generate 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 arrives at the HVAC system, the filter does its job by trapping the hair and preventing it from landing on delicate cooling components. At the same time, this quickly clogs the filter up, limiting airflow and placing additional strain on the HVAC system. Without exchanging or cleaning the filter, you may experience higher energy bills and more frequent breakdowns.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, consisting of microscopic skin flakes and saliva particles, commonly exacerbates respiratory problems in people with allergies or asthma. Filters with higher MERV ratings are more likely 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:
- Stick to a regular schedule when cleaning or replacing the filter: Depending on the type of filter and how many pets you have, you may need a new filter every 30 to 90 days. Take a look at the filter each month and replace it when it starts to appear clogged.
- Clean your air vents and ductwork: Pet hair can accumulate on air registers and grilles, preventing proper ventilation. 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.
- Groom your pets: Regular brushing and bathing reduces the hair and dander your pets generate. Keep the brushing outdoors and sweep the area after you've finished to keep any hair from getting back 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 washing any pet beds.
- Don't let debris collect near the outdoor unit: Central air conditioners feature an outdoor unit mounted to a concrete slab outside your home. Clear away any accumulated debris, like pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other objects. This helps maintain consistent heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Don't ignore preventive maintenance: Ideally, your local HVAC professional will inspect and maintain the air conditioner annually, preferably in the spring. This professional 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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