A family pet is part of millions of families. 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 usually has a negative impact on the efficiency of your air conditioning system. With proper maintenance, you can avoid impacting airflow and protect the cooling equipment from harm.
How Do AC Air Filters Work, and Why Are They Important?
A filter is an important part of any forced-air HVAC system. The filter is the primary solution to capture airborne particles, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, preventing these contaminants from circulating in your home. There is lots of variety in the materials they use to accomplish this, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. Your filter's effectiveness can be illustrated with its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which ranges from 1 to 20, with higher ratings indicating better filtration.
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. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by minimizing particulate matter, which could lead to allergies, asthma attacks and similar conditions.
How Does Pet Hair Affect the Air Filter of My HVAC System?
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 can build up on 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 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 draws it toward the HVAC system, the filter does its job by trapping the hair and preventing it from landing on sensitive cooling components. However, this clogs the filter more quickly than usual, decreasing airflow and increasing 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, 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
Fortunately, it isn't hard to protect the efficiency of your AC, 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 may need a new filter every 30 to 90 days. Check it every month and replace it when it starts to appear clogged.
- Clean your air vents and ductwork: Pet hair collects on the air registers and grilles, preventing proper ventilation. 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.
- Groom your pets: 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: Not all pet hair ends up in the HVAC system. A lot of it settles on surfaces or under furniture. 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 fixed to a concrete slab just outside the home. Keep the area around this unit free of debris, such as pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and similar materials. This encourages normal heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Don't ignore preventive maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain the air conditioner annually, preferably in the spring. This professional can find and resolve any small issues, clean key components and offer tips to keep your cooling system running efficiently with pets.
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