Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. In fact, pets are usually considered part of the family, and we want to have them around for many years.
Unfortunately, pet hair usually has a negative impact on the efficiency of your air conditioning system. But with routine maintenance, you can avoid impacting airflow and protect your cooling system 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. It captures airborne particles, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, keeping them from reaching other rooms or areas of the property. AC filters come in many different versions, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. The overall effectiveness of an air filter can be measured with its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which is rated on a scale from 1 to 20, with higher ratings illustrating maximum efficiency.
The primary purpose of an AC filter is to protect the evaporator coil, blower motor and other delicate hardware from dirt and debris that could lead to problems. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by keeping particles out of your indoor air, which can cause allergies, asthma attacks and other breathing problems.
How Does Pet Hair Affect the Air Filter of My HVAC System?
As 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, reducing their efficiency and life span. 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.
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 traps the hair and prevents it from landing on delicate cooling components. At the same time, this quickly clogs the filter up, decreasing airflow and increasing strain on the HVAC system. Without exchanging or cleaning the filter, higher energy bills and more repair visits could be likely.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, which consists 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
You can take steps to maintain the efficiency of your air conditioner, even with pets living in your home. Here’s how:
- Change the filter regularly: Depending on the number of pets and the filter's specific design, you may need a new filter every 30 to 90 days. Check it every month and replace it when a clog appears.
- Keep ventilation clear: Pet hair gradually piles up against the air registers and grilles, limiting circulation. 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 in the air ducts every few years.
- Keep pets well-groomed: Regular brushing and bathing minimizes the hair your pet leaves behind. 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 washing any pet beds.
- Keep the area around the outdoor unit clear: Central air conditioning systems come with an outdoor unit secured to a concrete slab outside your home. Clear away any accumulated debris, including pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other forms of yard waste. This helps maintain consistent 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 can identify and fix small issues, clean internal components and share advice on keeping your cooling system running efficiently with pets.
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