Pets can be found in millions of homes. You probably consider your dog or cat a beloved family member and want to keep them well-cared for.
Unfortunately, pet hair can adversely affect your air conditioning system. But if you keep up with 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. The filter is the primary solution to capture airborne particles, 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. Your filter's effectiveness can be illustrated with its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which ranges from 1 to 20, with higher ratings corresponding to stronger 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 reducing particulates in the air, which could lead to allergies, asthma attacks and similar conditions.
How Can Pet Hair Impact an HVAC System's Air Filter?
While animals are shedding, their hair becomes airborne and can eventually get into the HVAC system through the return air ducts. Without a filter installed, 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 become clogged with moisture found in the cooling system, 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 can still lead to problems. When return airflow arrives at 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 exchanging or cleaning the filter, high energy bills and frequent breakdowns may be right behind.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, which consists of microscopic skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common cause of respiratory problems in people with allergies or asthma. You may benefit from a higher efficiency filter to ensure it can 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 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.
- Periodically clean the return air ducts: Pet hair collects on the air registers and grilles, limiting circulation. You can clean them 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.
- Groom your pets: Regular brushing and bathing reduces the hair and dander your pets generate. Brush your pets outside when possible and sweep the area when you're done to stop hair from just drifting back inside.
- Consistently vacuum and dust: Pet hair can be found in pretty much every room of a house. 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.
- Clear the area around the outdoor unit: Central air conditioning systems come with an outdoor unit secured to a concrete slab just outside the home. Keep the area around this unit free of debris, including pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and other forms of yard waste. This helps maintain consistent heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Schedule regular maintenance: For best results, have a trusted HVAC technician inspect and maintain your cooling system once a year, preferably in the spring. They'll know how to find and resolve any small issues, clean internal components and provide recommendations about how to keep your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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