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.
Annoyingly, 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 your cooling system 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. The overall effectiveness of an air filter can be measured with its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which ranges from 1 to 20, with higher ratings indicating better filtration.
An air filter’s key purpose is the protection of the evaporator coil, blower motor and other important parts 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?
While animals are shedding, 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 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 arrives at the HVAC system, the filter traps the hair and prevents it from landing on vulnerable cooling components. At the same time, this quickly clogs the filter up, limiting airflow and placing additional 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 microscopic skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common allergen that causes 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 type of filter and how many pets you have, you might need to replace it every 30 to 90 days. Take a look at the filter each 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 in the air ducts every few years.
- Bathe or brush away excess pet hair: 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: Not all pet hair ends up in the HVAC system. A lot of it settles on surfaces or in corners. Keep up a regular cleaning routine that includes vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and laundering your pet’s bedding.
- Don't let debris collect near 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, like 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: For best results, have a trusted HVAC technician inspect and maintain your air conditioning system every year, preferably in the spring. They can identify and fix small issues, keep internal components clean and offer tips to keep your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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