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.
However, 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 the cooling equipment from harm.
How Does an AC Filter Work, and Why is It So 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. There is lots of variety in the materials they use to accomplish this, 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.
The primary purpose of an AC filter is to protect the evaporator coil, blower motor and other important parts from dirt and debris capable of damaging them. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by minimizing particulate matter, which could lead to allergies, asthma attacks and other breathing problems.
How Does Pet Hair Affect the Air Filter of My HVAC System?
While animals are shedding, their hair becomes airborne and can eventually get 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, slowing them down and reducing efficiency. Hair can also become clogged with moisture found in the cooling system, creating a breeding ground for microbes like mold, which give off foul odors and lower indoor air quality.
Even when the filter is already in place, pet hair isn’t harmless. When return airflow reaches the main 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, decreasing airflow and increasing 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 microscopic skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common allergen that causes 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:
- Stick to a regular schedule when cleaning or replacing the filter: 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. Check it every month and replace it when it starts to appear clogged.
- Periodically clean the return air ducts: Pet hair can accumulate on air registers and grilles, reducing airflow. Clean these 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 inside your ductwork every few years.
- Keep pets well-groomed: Regular brushing and bathing is a great strategy for reducing pet hair. Brush your pets outside when possible 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 under furniture. Keep up a regular cleaning routine that includes vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and laundering your pet’s bedding.
- Keep the area around the outdoor unit clear: Central HVAC systems need an outdoor unit fixed 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 forms of yard waste. This encourages normal heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Keep up with routine AC maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain the air conditioner annually, preferably in the spring. They can find and resolve any small issues, clean key components and offer tips to keep your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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