A family pet is part of millions of families. You probably consider your dog or cat a beloved family member and want to keep them well-cared for.
However, pet hair can be a constant struggle as it affects your air conditioning system. But if you keep up with maintenance, you can ensure adequate airflow and protect your air conditioner from harm.
How Does an AC Filter Work, and Why is It So 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, stopping them from spreading through the ductwork. There is lots of variety in the materials they use to accomplish this, 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 indicating better filtration.
Your filter is primarily responsible for protecting the evaporator coil, blower motor and other important parts from dirt and debris that could cause damage. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by reducing particulates in the air, which often contribute to allergies, asthma attacks and other respiratory issues in sensitive individuals.
How Does Pet Hair Affect the Air Filter of My HVAC System?
When pets shed, their hair becomes airborne and may gradually reach the HVAC system through the return air ducts. Without a filter installed, pet hair accumulates within the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, slowing them down and reducing efficiency. 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 with a filter in place, pet hair isn’t harmless. When return airflow draws it toward the HVAC system, the filter traps the hair and prevents it from landing on sensitive cooling components. At the same time, this quickly clogs the filter up, putting extra strain on the HVAC system. Without intervention, high energy bills and frequent breakdowns may be right behind.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, consisting of tiny skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common allergen that causes respiratory problems for those suffering from 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
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 number of pets and the filter's specific design, you might need to replace it every 30 to 90 days. Check it every month and replace it if you notice weaker airflow or can see evidence of a clog.
- Periodically clean the return air ducts: Pet hair collects on the 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.
- Keep pets well-groomed: Regular brushing and bathing reduces the hair and dander your pets generate. Keep the brushing outdoors 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 washing any pet beds.
- Keep the area around the outdoor unit clear: Central HVAC systems need an outdoor unit fixed to a concrete slab outside your home. Clear away any accumulated debris, including pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and similar materials. This helps maintain consistent heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Keep up with routine AC 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 find and resolve any small issues, keep internal components clean and offer tips to keep your cooling system running efficiently with pets.
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