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 usually has a negative impact on the efficiency of your air conditioning system. With proper maintenance, you can ensure adequate airflow and protect your cooling system 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. Various designs can be used effectively, 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 cooling system components from dirt and debris that could cause damage. At sufficient efficiency, the air filter also improves indoor air quality by reducing particulates in the air, which could lead to allergies, asthma attacks and similar conditions.
How Does Pet Hair Affect Your HVAC System and Filter?
As 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, 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 microbes like mold, which give off 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 draws it toward the HVAC system, the filter captures the hair as it passes, keeping it from landing on sensitive cooling components. That being said, eventually the filter will clog, putting extra strain on the HVAC system. Without intervention, high energy bills and frequent breakdowns may be right behind.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, made up of tiny skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common cause of respiratory problems for those suffering from 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 total number of pets as well as the filter's efficiency, you may need a new filter every 30 to 90 days. Keep an eye on it every month and replace it when it starts to appear clogged.
- Keep ventilation clear: Pet hair gradually piles up against the air registers and grilles, reducing airflow. Clean these with 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.
- Keep pets well-groomed: Regular brushing and bathing is a great strategy for reducing pet hair. 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 or under furniture. Proper cleaning should include vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and washing any pet beds.
- Don't let debris collect near the outdoor unit: Central HVAC systems need an outdoor unit secured to a concrete slab somewhere along an exterior wall of 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 encourages normal heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Don't ignore preventive maintenance: Ideally, your local HVAC professional will inspect and maintain the air conditioner annually, preferably in the spring. They can identify and fix small issues, clean internal components and offer tips to keep your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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