Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. You probably consider your dog or cat a beloved family member and want to keep them well-cared for.
Regrettably, pet hair can adversely affect your air conditioning system. But with routine maintenance, you can avoid impacting airflow and protect your cooling system from harm.
How Do AC Air Filters Work, and Why Are They Important?
Your air filter is a key component of the HVAC system. It captures airborne particles, 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 indicating better filtration.
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 can cause allergies, asthma attacks and other breathing problems.
How Does Pet Hair Affect the Air Filter of My HVAC System?
As pets shed, their hair becomes airborne and may gradually reach the HVAC system through the return air ducts. When the filter is missing, pet hair collects inside 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 microorganisms which can produce foul odors and lower indoor air quality.
Even with a filter in place, pet hair isn’t harmless. When return airflow draws it toward the HVAC system, the filter traps the hair and prevents it from landing on vulnerable cooling components. However, this clogs the filter more quickly than usual, 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, which consists of small skin flakes and saliva particles, commonly exacerbates respiratory problems in people with allergies or asthma. You need a filter with a high MERV rating 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:
- 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 a clog appears.
- Clean your air vents and ductwork: Pet hair gradually piles up against the air registers and grilles, limiting circulation. 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 in the air ducts every few years.
- Bathe or brush away excess pet hair: Regular brushing and bathing is a great strategy for reducing pet hair. Make sure to handle brushing outside 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 around the house. 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 secured to a concrete slab outside your home. Clear away any accumulated debris, like pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and similar materials. This helps maintain consistent heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Schedule regular maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain your cooling system once a year, preferably in the spring. They can find and resolve any small issues, clean key components and provide recommendations about how to keep your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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