Pets can be found in millions of homes. You probably consider your dog or cat a beloved family member and want to have them around for many years.
Regrettably, pet hair can be a constant struggle as it affects 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, 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 ranges from 1 to 20, with higher ratings corresponding to stronger filtration.
An air filter’s key purpose is the protection of the evaporator coil, blower motor and other delicate hardware from dirt and debris capable of damaging them. At sufficient efficiency, the air filter also improves indoor air quality by minimizing particulate matter, which often contribute to allergies, asthma attacks and other breathing problems.
How Can Pet Hair Impact an HVAC System's Air Filter?
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 can build up on the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, reducing their efficiency and life span. Hair can also become clogged with moisture found in the cooling system, creating a breeding ground for microorganisms which can produce 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 reaches the main HVAC system, the filter does its job by trapping the hair and preventing it from landing on vulnerable cooling components. However, this clogs the filter more quickly than usual, putting extra strain on the HVAC system. Without intervention, you may experience higher energy bills and more frequent breakdowns.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, consisting of small skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common cause of respiratory problems in people with 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
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 total number of pets as well as the filter's efficiency, you may need a new filter every 30 to 90 days. Take a look at the filter each month and replace it when it starts to appear clogged.
- 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.
- Keep pets well-groomed: Regular brushing and bathing reduces the hair and dander your pets generate. Keep the brushing outdoors and sweep the area when you're done to stop hair from just drifting back 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 laundering your pet’s bedding.
- Clear the area around the outdoor unit: Central air conditioners feature an outdoor unit secured to a concrete slab just outside the home. Clear away any accumulated debris, such as 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: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain your cooling system once a year, preferably in the spring. This professional can identify and fix small issues, keep internal components clean and share advice on keeping your cooling system running efficiently with pets.
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