Pets can be found in millions of homes. In fact, pets are usually considered part 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. With proper maintenance, you can ensure adequate airflow and protect your cooling system from harm.
How Do AC Air Filters Work, and Why Are They 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, stopping them from spreading through the ductwork. AC filters come in many different versions, 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 illustrating maximum efficiency.
Your filter is primarily responsible for protecting 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 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. When the filter is missing, pet hair accumulates within the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, potentially stopping them from working efficiently. Hair can also become clogged with moisture found in the cooling system, 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 isn’t harmless. When return airflow reaches the main 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, 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, consisting of small skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common cause of respiratory problems in people with 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
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 may need a new filter every 30 to 90 days. Keep an eye on it every month and replace it when a clog appears.
- Clean your air vents and ductwork: 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, 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 is a great strategy for reducing pet hair. 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.
- Clear the area around 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, like pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and similar materials. This encourages normal heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Don't ignore preventive maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain the air conditioner annually, preferably in the spring. They can find and resolve any small issues, keep internal components clean and offer tips to keep your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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