Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. To be honest, our pets are usually considered a beloved member 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. But if you keep up with maintenance, you can avoid impacting airflow and protect the cooling equipment from harm.
How Does an AC Filter Work, and Why is It So 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. 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 could be anywhere 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 cooling system components from dirt and debris that could lead to problems. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by reducing particulates in the air, which could lead to allergies, asthma attacks and other breathing problems.
How Can Pet Hair Impact an HVAC System's Air Filter?
When pets shed, their hair becomes airborne and is drawn into the HVAC system through the return air ducts. When the filter is missing, pet hair accumulates within the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, reducing their efficiency and life span. Hair can also encourage clogs if it interacts with the moisture inside your cooling, 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 can still lead to problems. When return airflow draws it toward the HVAC system, the filter captures the hair as it passes, keeping it from landing on vulnerable cooling components. However, this clogs the filter more quickly than usual, putting extra strain on the HVAC system. Without maintenance, high energy bills and frequent breakdowns may be right behind.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, which consists of tiny skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common allergen that causes respiratory problems in people with allergies or asthma. Filters with higher MERV ratings are more likely 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 type of filter and how many pets you have, you should try to replace it after 30 to 90 days. Check 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, 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. Keep the brushing outdoors and sweep the area after you've finished to keep any hair from getting back inside.
- Consistently vacuum and dust: While it affects your HVAC system, pet hair can be found all throughout your home. A lot of it settles on surfaces or in corners. Proper cleaning should include vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and laundering your pet’s bedding.
- Don't let debris collect near the outdoor unit: Central air conditioning systems come with an outdoor unit secured to a concrete slab just outside the home. Keep the area around this unit free of debris, including pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other forms of yard waste. This ensures effective heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Schedule regular maintenance: Ideally, your local HVAC professional will inspect and maintain your air conditioning system every year, preferably in the spring. They'll know how to find and resolve any small issues, keep internal components clean and offer tips to keep your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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