Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. In fact, pets are usually considered part of the family, and we want to keep them well-cared for.
Unfortunately, pet hair usually has a negative impact on the efficiency of your air conditioning system. With proper maintenance, you can ensure adequate 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. Your air filter captures airborne contaminants, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, preventing these contaminants from circulating in your home. AC filters come in many different versions, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. Your filter's effectiveness can be illustrated with its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which is rated on a scale from 1 to 20, with higher ratings illustrating maximum efficiency.
An air filter’s key purpose is the protection of the evaporator coil, blower motor and other delicate hardware 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 Your HVAC System and Filter?
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 collects inside the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, reducing their efficiency and life span. Hair can also mix with condensation formed during air conditioning, 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 can still lead to problems. When return airflow arrives at the HVAC system, the filter captures the hair as it passes, keeping it from landing on delicate cooling components. That being said, eventually the filter will clog, 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, which consists of small skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common allergen that causes respiratory problems for those suffering from 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 number of pets and the filter's specific design, you may need a new filter every 30 to 90 days. Keep an eye on it every month and replace it if you notice weaker airflow or can see evidence of a clog.
- Keep ventilation clear: Pet hair collects on the air registers and grilles, preventing proper ventilation. You can clean them 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 in the air ducts every few years.
- Groom your pets: Regular brushing and bathing is a great strategy for reducing pet hair. Make sure to handle brushing outside and sweep the area after you've finished to keep any hair from getting back inside.
- Consistently vacuum and dust: Not all pet hair ends up in the HVAC system. 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.
- Don't let debris collect near the outdoor unit: Central HVAC systems need 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 objects. This encourages normal heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Schedule regular maintenance: For best results, have a trusted HVAC technician inspect and maintain the air conditioner annually, preferably in the spring. They'll know how to identify and fix small issues, keep internal components clean and share advice on keeping your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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