Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. You probably consider your dog or cat a beloved family member and want to keep them well-cared for.
Regrettably, pet hair usually has a negative impact on the efficiency of your air conditioning system. With proper 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. Your air filter captures airborne contaminants, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, keeping them from reaching other rooms or areas of the property. 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 could be anywhere 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 minimizing particulate matter, which often contribute to allergies, asthma attacks and similar conditions.
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, 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.
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 does its job by trapping the hair and preventing it from landing on delicate cooling components. At the same time, this quickly clogs the filter up, limiting airflow and placing additional strain on the HVAC system. Without maintenance, you may experience higher energy bills and more frequent breakdowns.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, made up of small skin flakes and saliva particles, commonly exacerbates respiratory problems in people with 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:
- 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. Keep an eye on it every month and replace it when a clog appears.
- Keep ventilation clear: Pet hair can accumulate on air registers and grilles, preventing proper ventilation. Trying cleaning these using 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.
- Keep pets well-groomed: Regular brushing and bathing reduces the hair and dander your pets generate. Brush your pets outside when possible and sweep the area when you're done to stop hair from just drifting back inside.
- Consistently vacuum and dust: Not all pet hair ends up in the HVAC system. A lot of it settles on surfaces around the house. 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 air conditioning systems come with an outdoor unit fixed to a concrete slab just outside the home. Clear away any accumulated debris, like pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and similar materials. This ensures effective heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Don't ignore preventive 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 key components and offer tips to keep your cooling system running efficiently with pets.
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