Pets can be found in millions of homes. To be honest, our pets are usually considered a beloved member of the family and we want to keep them well-cared for.
Regrettably, pet hair can be a constant struggle as it affects your air conditioning system. With proper maintenance, you can avoid impacting airflow and protect your air conditioner 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, stopping them from spreading through the ductwork. AC filters come in many different versions, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. A filter’s effectiveness depends os its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which could be anywhere from 1 to 20, with higher ratings illustrating maximum efficiency.
Your filter is primarily responsible for protecting the evaporator coil, blower motor and other cooling system components from dirt and debris that could cause damage. At sufficient efficiency, the air filter also improves indoor air quality by minimizing particulate matter, which could lead 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. If there isn't a filter in place, pet hair can build up on the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, potentially stopping them from working efficiently. Hair can also encourage clogs if it interacts with the moisture inside your cooling, creating a breeding ground for microorganisms which can produce foul odors and lower indoor air quality.
Even when the filter is already in place, pet hair isn’t harmless. 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, decreasing airflow and increasing 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, commonly exacerbates respiratory problems for those suffering from 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
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 should try to replace it after 30 to 90 days. Check it every month and replace it if you notice weaker airflow or can see evidence of a clog.
- Periodically clean the return air ducts: 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 inside your ductwork every few years.
- Groom your pets: Regular brushing and bathing is a great strategy for reducing pet hair. Make sure to handle brushing outside 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.
- Keep the area around the outdoor unit clear: Central air conditioning systems come with an outdoor unit secured to a concrete slab somewhere along an exterior wall of the home. Clear away any accumulated debris, including pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other objects. This encourages normal heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Don't ignore preventive 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 offer tips to keep your air conditioner running efficiently with pets.
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