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 have them around for many years.
Regrettably, pet hair can be a constant struggle as it affects your air conditioning system. But if you keep up with maintenance, you'll help preserve steady airflow and protect the cooling equipment 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. Your air filter captures airborne contaminants, 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. 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 indicating better filtration.
An air filter’s key purpose is the protection of 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 keeping particles out of your indoor air, which could lead to allergies, asthma attacks and other breathing problems.
How Does Pet Hair Affect Your HVAC System and Filter?
When pets shed, their hair becomes airborne and is drawn into the HVAC system through the return air ducts. If there isn't a filter in place, pet hair can build up on the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, slowing them down and reducing efficiency. Hair can also mix with condensation formed during air conditioning, 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 isn’t harmless. 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, decreasing airflow and increasing strain on the HVAC system. Without intervention, higher energy bills and more repair visits could be likely.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, which consists of small 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
Maintaining an efficient, properly functioning air conditioner is certainly possible, 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 might need to replace it every 30 to 90 days. Keep an eye on it every month and replace it when it starts to appear clogged.
- Clean your air vents and ductwork: 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 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 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. Proper cleaning should include vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and washing any pet beds.
- Keep the area around the outdoor unit clear: Central HVAC systems need an outdoor unit mounted to a concrete slab somewhere along an exterior wall of the home. Keep the area around this unit free of debris, like pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other objects. This encourages normal heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Don't ignore preventive maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain your air conditioning system every year, preferably in the spring. They'll know how to find and resolve any small issues, clean key components and provide recommendations about how to keep your air conditioner running efficiently with pets.
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