Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. In fact, pets are usually considered part of the family, and we want to keep them well-cared for.
Annoyingly, pet hair can adversely affect 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?
Your air filter is a key component of the HVAC system. Your air filter captures airborne contaminants, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, keeping them from reaching other rooms or areas of the property. 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.
Your filter is primarily responsible for protecting 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 reducing particulates in the air, which could lead to allergies, asthma attacks and other respiratory issues in sensitive individuals.
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. Without a filter installed, pet hair collects inside the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, potentially stopping them from working efficiently. Hair can also mix with condensation formed during air conditioning, creating a breeding ground for microorganisms which can produce foul odors and lower indoor air quality.
But even if you have an air filter installed, pet hair isn’t harmless. When return airflow reaches the main HVAC system, the filter captures the hair as it passes, keeping it from landing on delicate cooling components. However, this clogs the filter more quickly than usual, decreasing airflow and increasing strain on the HVAC system. Without maintenance, higher energy bills and more repair visits could be likely.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, consisting of tiny skin flakes and saliva particles, commonly exacerbates respiratory problems in people with 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:
- 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 should try to replace it after 30 to 90 days. Keep an eye on it every month and replace it if you notice weaker airflow or can see evidence of a clog.
- Keep ventilation clear: Pet hair collects on the air registers and grilles, limiting circulation. Trying cleaning these using 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 in the air ducts 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: While it affects your HVAC system, pet hair can be found all throughout your home. A lot of it settles on surfaces around the house. Proper cleaning should include vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and washing any pet beds.
- Clear the area around the outdoor unit: Central HVAC systems need an outdoor unit fixed to a concrete slab outside your home. Keep the area around this unit free of debris, such as pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other objects. This helps maintain consistent 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. This professional can identify and fix small issues, clean key components and share advice on keeping your air conditioner running efficiently with pets.
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