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.
Regrettably, 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 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. Your filter's effectiveness can be illustrated with 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 important parts from dirt and debris capable of damaging them. 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?
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 collects inside 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 microbes like mold, which give off foul odors and lower indoor air quality.
But even if you have an air filter installed, 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. At the same time, this quickly clogs the filter up, limiting airflow and placing additional strain on the HVAC system. Without maintenance, higher energy bills and more repair visits could be likely.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, which consists of microscopic 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:
- 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. Check it every month and replace it when a clog appears.
- Periodically clean the return air ducts: Pet hair can accumulate on air registers and grilles, reducing airflow. You can clean them 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 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 around the house. Proper cleaning should include vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and laundering your pet’s bedding.
- Keep the area around the outdoor unit clear: Central air conditioning systems come with an outdoor unit mounted 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 similar materials. This encourages normal heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Schedule regular maintenance: For best results, have a trusted HVAC technician inspect and maintain your cooling system once a year, preferably in the spring. They'll know how to identify and fix small issues, clean internal components and offer tips to keep your air conditioner running efficiently with pets.
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