Pets can be found in millions of homes. In fact, pets are usually considered part of the family, and we want to keep them well-cared for.
Annoyingly, pet hair usually has a negative impact on the efficiency of your air conditioning system. With proper maintenance, you'll help preserve steady airflow and protect your air conditioner 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. It captures airborne particles, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, preventing these contaminants from circulating in your home. Various designs can be used effectively, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. A filter’s effectiveness depends os its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which is rated on a scale from 1 to 20, with higher ratings corresponding to stronger filtration.
The primary purpose of an AC filter is to protect the evaporator coil, blower motor and other delicate hardware from dirt and debris capable of damaging them. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by minimizing particulate matter, which often contribute to allergies, asthma attacks and other breathing problems.
How Does Pet Hair Affect the Air Filter of My HVAC System?
When pets shed, their hair becomes airborne and is drawn into the HVAC system through the return air ducts. If there isn't a filter in place, pet hair collects inside the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, potentially stopping them from working efficiently. Hair can also mix with condensation formed during air conditioning, 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 arrives at the HVAC system, the filter does its job by trapping the hair and preventing it from landing on sensitive cooling components. That being said, eventually the filter will clog, putting extra strain on the HVAC system. Without exchanging or cleaning the filter, 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
Maintaining an efficient, properly functioning air conditioner is certainly possible, even with pets living in your home. Here’s how:
- Change the filter regularly: Depending on the type of filter and how many pets you have, you might need to replace it every 30 to 90 days. Take a look at the filter each month and replace it when it starts to appear clogged.
- Clean your air vents and ductwork: 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.
- Bathe or brush away excess pet hair: Regular brushing and bathing is a great strategy for reducing pet hair. Make sure to handle brushing outside and sweep the area afterward to prevent the hair from getting tracked inside.
- Consistently vacuum and dust: Not all pet hair ends up in the HVAC system. A lot of it settles on surfaces or under furniture. Keep up a regular cleaning routine that includes vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and laundering your pet’s bedding.
- Clear the area around the outdoor unit: Central HVAC systems need an outdoor unit fixed to a concrete slab outside your home. Clear away any accumulated debris, such as pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other forms of yard waste. 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, clean key components and offer tips to keep your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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