A family pet is part of millions of families. To be honest, our pets are usually considered a beloved member of the family and we want to have them around for many years.
However, pet hair can be a constant struggle as it affects your air conditioning system. But with routine maintenance, you can avoid impacting 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. It captures airborne particles, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, keeping them from reaching other rooms or areas of the property. 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 corresponding to stronger filtration.
An air filter’s key purpose is the protection of 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 keeping particles out of your indoor air, which often contribute to allergies, asthma attacks and other respiratory issues in sensitive individuals.
How Can Pet Hair Impact an HVAC System's Air Filter?
As pets shed, their hair becomes airborne and may gradually reach the HVAC system through the return air ducts. When the filter is missing, pet hair can build up on 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 microorganisms which can produce 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 arrives at the HVAC system, the filter traps the hair and prevents it from landing on vulnerable cooling components. However, this clogs the filter more quickly than usual, decreasing airflow and increasing strain on the HVAC system. Without maintenance, high energy bills and frequent breakdowns may be right behind.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, consisting of microscopic skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common allergen that causes 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
You can take steps to maintain the efficiency of your air conditioner, 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. Take a look at the filter each month and replace it if you notice weaker airflow or can see evidence of a clog.
- Periodically clean the return air ducts: 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 in the air ducts every few years.
- Keep pets well-groomed: Regular brushing and bathing minimizes the hair your pet leaves behind. Make sure to handle brushing outside 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 in corners. Keep up a regular cleaning routine that includes vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and washing any pet beds.
- Keep the area around the outdoor unit clear: Central air conditioning systems come with an outdoor unit fixed to a concrete slab somewhere along an exterior wall of the home. Keep the area around this unit free of debris, such as pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other forms of yard waste. This ensures effective heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Schedule regular maintenance: For best results, have a trusted HVAC technician inspect and maintain your air conditioning system every year, preferably in the spring. This professional can identify and fix small issues, keep internal components clean and share advice on keeping your cooling system running efficiently with pets.
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